|Conditions are changing and will continue to change as the pandemic goes on. The good news for those who are itching to travel sooner than later: The list of where US citizens can go is slowly expanding. As of early September, here’s where Americans can visit right now with no quarantine required.|
|✅ Where US citizens can visit with no testing or quarantine required|
|Note that though a test isn’t required, you may be tested upon arrival (randomly, or if you’re showing symptoms) and asked to isolate until you get your results. If you’re sick and do need to quarantine, it may be at your own expense.
|Where US citizens can visit with a negative Covid test and no quarantine required|
|Testing rules are all over the place.
Some countries require a negative test from the last 72 hours while some allow tests that are five days old; some require a test before you board, and others test on arrival. In some countries, a single test is all that’s needed and in others you may need to be tested again depending on the length of your stay.
Bottom line: check each country’s requirements carefully.
Additionally, Belize, El Salvador, and Namibia have announced plans to reopen soon. Unfortunately at this time there’s no word on when other countries, including those in the EU, may begin welcoming Americans again.
You don’t realize how important it is to have a social security number until
you don’t have one. The SSN is required to open up bank accounts, get medical insurance, get a drivers license,
work, and even to be able to be charged lower income tax on a filing as married tax return.
It’s important, it’s necessary, but has been nearly impossible to get during the Pandemic.
Social Security requires an in-person meeting, to apply for the number. And as
Social Security closed offices to the public back in March, this puts your new
immigrant fiance or spouse in between a rock and a hard place.
Fortunately, I recently went through this process with a client of mine, and in this
video will teach you what I found out, so you can get an SSN for your fiance or spouse.
Now, lets talk about “How to get that elusive Social Security number while Social Security offices
are on Covid 19 lock down.”
Normally to obtain a Social Security number (SSN), after immigrating to the USA on a spouse,
relative, or fiancée visa, one goes in person to the nearest Social Security Administration
(SSA) office presents identification and receives the SSN a month later.
Unfortunately during the COVID-19 pandemic most Social Security offices are closed and not
allowing in-person visits. This has caused a lot of frustration and delays for new immigrants
who need a social security number in order to open up bank accounts, get insurance, and apply for work.
Fortunately, you can still get the SSN. Here’s how.
The procedure is not publicly described at their websites, so to find out exactly what to do and how,
you MUST make a few phone calls to SSA to find out how and what to do in your area.
That’s exactly what I did recently and now I will share my experience with you.
K1 Fiance Visa
A recently arrived K-1 fiancée visa traveler, is eligible to obtain a Social Security number
by applying between day 15 and day 60 after arrival. Even though publicly and officially SSA
is closed to the public and not conducting in-person interviews, in practice they are conducting
some interviews and currently WILL do so for your Fiance Visa partner.
The way to do this is as follows:
Step 1: Google search for the telephone number of your local Social Security office, Call them. Identify yourself
that you need a first time, Social Security number for a recently arrived K-1 fiancée visa holder.
The key words to emphasise are “FIRST TIME”. The first operator you call probably can’t help, but should redirect you to
another number, at another office. You may need to make a series of phone calls. Rinse and repeat until you
finally reach the single, there is always one, actual office in your area that is handling First Time cases.
Step 2: Over the phone, provide detailed information about your fiancé including his/her local contact information and telephone numbers.
Step 3: Eventually, few days, or weeks, you will be called back and your Fiance provided a date to come in for
an in-person interview. The caller ID will says “US Government”‘. But it is not a spam call. It is Social Security.
I almost blocked the call cause I get many spam calls claiming to be something they are not. But this is legit.
An appointment date will be set, usually for a few days later. Your fiancé should bring passport, a filled in SSN application
(https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf) and I-94. The I-94 is available online. https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/,
It’s also a good idea to bring original and a photocopy or a certified copy and photocopy of your Fiance’s birth Certificate.
Eventually the Social Security number will be issued.
If you are already married, and if your new spouse has changed last name to yours, also bring the marriage certificate and a photocopy.
Social Security may or may not issue the SSN in the married name. Either way is OK, but is worthwhile to ask as it would save
you another trip later.. If they prefer to issue in the maiden name, and they regularly do insist on this because they
often only will issue the SSN to the name shown on the passport and I-94.
It is not a problem. Later once you get green card or work authorization return to Social Security, hopefully by then the pandemic is past,
and update to the new married name.
Regular Immigration (Spouse or Relative)
In the case of regular immigration, such as your spouse arriving on a CR1 or IR1 visa or a family member,
or diversity lottery winner, the process is similar.
Step 1: Google search for a local Social Security office’s telephone number Call and identify yourself that you
need a first time, Social Security number for a new immigrant. Emphasize “FIRST TIME”. The first person you call
probably can’t help, but should redirect you to another number, at another office. Rinse and repeat till you are
talking to the office in your area assigned to handle such cases.
Step 2: They will give you their mailing address and instruct your immigrant to mail them, passport and the filled in
social security number application form.
Step 3: Send to the Social Security Office,the immigrant’s passport, it show have his/her arrival visa,
and the social security number application form. https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf
Use certified mail with tracking. You don’t want to take any chance that your passport gets lost.
Step 4: Eventually the Social Security office will call, and schedule a time to go to the
designated office, meet with the clerk and be approved for the SSN. There the clerk checks your passport id page
matches the applicant. Passport is returned at that time. And social security number is issued by mail a few weeks later.
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach
Planned October 2, 2020 USCIS Fee Schedule temporarily blocked by Injunction
“Procrastinators, YOU can rejoice” You still have time to avoid big
increases in the cost of Naturalization to become a US Citizen as well as Work and travel authorizations
for green card applicants.
For months, actually probably years, USCIS has had a price increase in the works.
Finally after much, much, deliberations, posting in the Federal Register, reviewing and replying to comments,
delays due to Covid 19, challenges from Congress, back and forth with Congress, FINALLY they got their wish.
A new price list was set to take effect on October 2.
Most fees went up. Some down. Some like Naturalization and Work + Travel Authorizations when up A LOT !.
The biggest bumps were a $445 increase from $725 to $1,170 for Naturalization,
$545 increase from 0 for Work Authorization
$585 increase from 0 for Advance Parole.
Other benefits that VisaCoach clients are concerned with changed little. Some a little up, some a little down.
Once the fee change was announced, we jumped on it, letting all our clients know what was happening
and helping those who would suffer the must from the fee increases to get their applications in on time.
We were very, very busy for a month during the run up to October 2.
Then, at the eleventh hour, just before October 2 came around, a group of opponents to the fee change were successful
to convince a court to place a temporary injunction, temporarily halting the fee change.
Well that’s Good news and bad.
Good news for procrastinators, who delayed but now can still submit under the old fee schedule.
BAD news for applicants in general, as total confusion is the rule of the day. The injunction is in effect,
but for HOW LONG? At any time it could be dropped.
Maybe the all new fees will be implemented, maybe only some parts, maybe none.
But is does cause problems. First of all, the fees could change without notice at any time. We are asking our clients
to reach out to us, when they are ON THE WAY to the post office to mail in their applications to confirm what
the correct fee is on the day they submit.
We can handle that with out clients, on a one by one personal case. Thats manageable. What I worry about are
how well the clerks at USCIS will handle the processing of cases and acceptance of payments once the fees actually change.
Officially, USCIS should check the postmark and mailing date shown on each package they receive. And then
apply to the contents of the package, the fees and procedures that were in force on the day of mailing. Unfortunately
that system does not work so well. The last time a major change occured, and this was on February 24 when the
public charge rules came into effect. Hundreds of applications that had been shipped, on time, were rejected, due
to clerical error. It took months for clients, who had legitimate proof of mailing to battle with USCIS to
get their cases back on course.
I am afraid in the week after the new fees take effect, that there will be even more such mistakes
made at USCIS causing great inconvenience and unnnecessary delays to applicants.
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach
President Trump promised a “Wall” to reduce immigration. While only partial progress on a concrete and steel wall was accomplished, great strides were made in limiting legal immigration via a paper wall of stringent policies that greatly increased the complexity and difficulty of passing through the immigration process.
President-Elect Biden has yet to take office, however I do expect that within the first hundred days of his taking office, deliberate executive action will be taken in an attempt to unravel the “Trump effect” on immigration.
This is GOOD news for Applicants.
Today I am going to forecast how I expect the Biden Administration’s occupancy of the White House to affect your application.
President Trump vowed to reduce immigration. And he was successful. Over 450 executive and administrative adjustments, both major and subtle, were made to toughen immigration rules and procedures. He instituted extreme vetting, where all applicants are more highly scrutinized than ever before, Banned entire countries from being allowed visas to the USA, added tighter Public Benefits eligibility requirements which created a virtual “wealth test”, and instituted a pervasive organization wide culture change in the way that USCIS views and treats immigrants.
United States Citizenship and Immigration service (USCIS), once viewed immigrants as its clients, to be served. It’s officers traditionally believed they were following a pro-immigrant, humanitarian mission. The mission was to help refugees escape persecution, American Companies bring in needed talent, and reunify families with their loved ones.
Many officers initially joined USCIS in order to pursue that noble mission. In the recent four years many of these same officers, disillusioned, have resigned, as under Trump, the priorities changed from helping eligible immigrants come to the USA, to finding ways to keep them out.
In 2018, under the Director selected by Trump, USCIS’s official mission statement was drastically altered. Removed were references to a “nation of immigrants” and to immigrants as “customers” whom the agency serves. Now the mission statement basically reads “enforce immigration laws”. Immigrants are no longer customers, now they are suspects. USCIS’s Budget for fraud prevention and detection doubled between 2016 and 2020
Here’s my forecast of what’s going to happen after President-Elect Biden takes office..
#1 New USCIS Director
To reverse the current “anti-immigrant” culture at USCIS will require a top down management change. That will start when President-elect Biden chooses a new director of USCIS, and assigns him or her the mandate to return USCIS to it’s prior mission of treating immigrants as clients, not adversaries, and working towards assisting them navigate lawful, and proper immigration. With new top down guidance, USCIS should relax it’s restrictionist “extreme vetting” and move to return to its earlier, more Humanitarian mission.
#2 End of Immigrant Harassment
While detailed and proper screening of applicants is reasonable, unfortunately in recent years the application review process has deteriorated from normal and expected due diligence into in essence, in many cases, deliberate harassment. Requests for evidence ( RFE’s) were frequently issued for non-material reasons.
Cases were denied for similarly trivial issues such as leaving fields that were not applicable, blank. Or incorrectly writing not applicable as NA vs N/A.
Revised Forms with no real modifications, would be announced and instead of giving adequate time usually one or two months for applicants to change over to the new versions, only One, single, day notice was given. And the applications that were already in the mail which had used the earlier nearly identical version, and which was the correct one to use on the day of mailing, were rejected.
Cases that previously would not require an interview, would be held and delayed many months awaiting availability of already overworked and limited interviewing staff.
For a few months this summer, even cases which had successfully gone through the entire tedious process, including interview and official APPROVAL, were put on hold, waiting many months for the printing of their approved work, travel and green cards. A long term contract USCIS had with the printing company had expired. And even though the contract’s expiry date, and need for replacement was known, long, realistically years in advance, no action on USCIS’s part to replace the contract and obtain alternative printing was taken, at least not until a court order forced USCIS to take proper action.
This change of attitude will rely on the New top management at USCIS. Their leadership will be critical to return USCIS to a culture of helping immigrants versus holding them back.
#3 Faster Processing
Less energy wasted by USCIS staff seeking excuses to delay individual cases, will result in more efficient, smoother and overall faster processing of cases.
#4 Lower Denial Rate
With restriction of immigration no longer being the guiding rule of the day, expect the cases that were previously denied due to trivial and non-material issues, or which were not given opportunity to clarify and justify misunderstandings now should receive a fairer hearing, and the approval rate should rise accordingly..
#5 Fee increase to be adjusted downwards
USCIS does not receive taxpayer dollars to pay for its operations. Instead it is self funded by the fees it charges immigrants. Originally to be effective on October 2, USCIS had requested an overhaul of its fee structure. The fees for some applications such as green cards and US citizenship went through the roof, they increased tremendously.
At the moment, this fee increase is temporarily on hold, halted by a court injunction.
The new fees requested are calculated based on what USCIS feels is needed to pay for its operations. I expect that under the Biden Administration the future, “user friendlier” USCIS, will find that since less time and energy is wasted, deliberately trying to obstruct the immigration process, that their operations will be more efficient, and less costly. Once the cost accountants do the math again, the fee increases needed may be found unnecessary, or only a smaller increase is needed.
#6 End to “Trump” or “Muslim” Travel Ban
The so-called “Muslim ban” that bans the issuance of visas to the USA from citizens of 15 countries, Chad, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela and Yemen will be lifted.
#7 Public Benefits “wealth test” Dropped
The most effective stumbling block to Legal immigration, to come out of the Trump administration was the broadening of the definition of what constitutes a public benefit. This new definition has been used to make it much more difficult for an immigrant to be deemed eligible to receive a green card and permanent residency in the USA. Not only are applicants required to prove that they never received public benefits, but must also convince the officer that in the future, no matter what happened, they would not possibly, conceivably, never, ever need public benefits forever into the future. This “wealth test”, and it’s extremely complicated resulting application paperwork will be removed or at very least greatly relaxed.
How Soon for these changes to happen ?
Immigration is not a hot-button issue for President-elect Biden as it was for President Trump. After the first few popular and headline grabbing executive orders are announced, namely dropping of the “muslim ban” and :”wealth test”, and appointment of a new USCIS Director, the rest of the job to reverse the “Trump effect” will most likely be left in the hands of the newly appointed USCIS management.
We all hope President-elect Biden chooses the new USCIS Director well. This choice will determine how fast and how well the intricate unraveling of so many changes, procedures, policies and overall mentality that the Trump administration injected into US immigration takes place.
It’s going to take time. It may take years, and perhaps more than one administration to get back to where we once were.
Good news for Nigerian Fiancees and Spouses
Two years ago President Trump added Nigeria to the list of countries who were banned from travel and immigration to the USA.
This executive order shocked and dismayed those applying for Fiancee and Spouse visas for partners from Nigeria.
The good news was that a fiance or spouse is considered “immediate family” and the consular officers in Lagos were permitted to use their discretion to approve a fiance or spouse regardless of the ban. But the bad news was that actually added a whole extra year to an already long and tedious 1 or 2 year long application process.
Well, it’s really good news now, newly elected President Biden, issued his own executive order virtually immediately after taking office, reversing the ban. So now Nigerian applications for fiances and spouses will be conducted and processed as usual.
USCIS Delays processing NOA1 receipts + payments
“My application was delivered to USCIS over two months ago. I have not gotten any receipt or notice from USCIS acknowledging my case. And the fee payment check I sent with the application has not even been cashed yet? Is my case lost? What is going on?”
The good news is, your case is not lost. It is simply a matter that USCIS is doing an extremely poor job running their mail room.
And this is not happening only with your case, it is happening to everyone’s cases. At the moment applications received as long as 3 months ago,
still have not been opened and entered into processing.
No notice sent, no payment deposited, and one unhappy applicant, needlessly worried about his/her application.
USCIS says the reason for the slowdown is “social distancing”.
That due to Covid restraints they can’t get enough people in the mail room to keep up with the incoming mail.
It’s true that during 2020, primarily April to September, USCIS got much fewer cases than normal. Perhaps they organized their mailroom structure around the expectation that they would only have 30% of the normal volume of application to process.
But now, beginning around September 2020, things have started to pick up. More couples are finally able to submit their applications.
Well I hope they figure this out, and soon, because I expect there to be a much larger surge in new applications coming soon.
And if USCIS has not been keeping up so far, it’s gonna be bad news for all applicants as their cases will be delayed, and based on the mailroom issue, delayed by easily avoidable issues.
Word to the wise, USCIS treats cases as “first come, first served” so submit your application as early as you can in 2021 cause USCIS will be extremely busy this year. The sooner you get in line, the sooner your case will be completed.
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach
Public Benefits, Public Charge Rules restricting Immigration have have been relaxed.
Under President Trump, the eligibility requirements for a foreign applicant who wanted to immigrate to the USA or adjust status to permanent residency were made much stricter.
This affected all immigrants including Fiancee’s and Spouse’s of US citizens.
The purpose was to keep immigrants out.
The rules were tightened to examine an applicant’s age, health, family status, assets resources, and financial status, and education and skills.
Required were health insurance, credit reports, proof of assets, and debts, diplomas, vocational certificates and most daunting of all was the possibility of denial, IF in an officers felt that an applicant, might, possibly, need government support in the future, even if never asked for assistance before, the application could be denied.
Good news. President Biden has tossed out these stricter requirements.
The older, pre Trump eligibility standards are now back.
And now, once again, only those currently receiving Cash Income Assistance or maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and state General Relief Assistance are ineligible for immigration.
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach
Biden makes US Citizenship Test Easier
President Biden has discarded the 2020 US naturalization Civics test created under President Trump, and reverted the test used for US citizenship to the earlier, simpler version that has been used by USCIS since 2008.
Towards the end of President Trumps term of office, USCIS under direction from
the White House revamped the Civics Test that applicants
for naturalization to US Citizenship had to pass.
The old test originally created in 2008 relied on 100 simple multiple choice questions.
The new 2020 test required verbal descriptive answers, about American history,
political structure, and the applicant’s intent to be a “good American”.
Whether or not an applicant actually passed the test became became subject to interpretation by the USCIS testing officer.
It became the officers discretion on whether to pass or fail.
This was all in an effort by the Trump Administration to restrict immigration,
by enforcing stricter, more subjective standards
Good news, especially for nervous or shy applicants, the more straightforward test is back
Once again only 6 ot 10 multiple choice questions need to be correct
, and all questions and their correct answers are posted at USCIS’s website to be studied and memorized in advance of the Citizenship interview and testing.
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach
US requires Covid Vaccinations for Immigration
Starting October 1, 2021 Applicants for immigration visas to the USA such as CR1 spouse and CR2 Dependent visas and including those who arrive on a K1 fiance visas who after marriage apply for adjustment of status, to get Green Cards, must all have approved Covid vaccinations
Update: DOS has amended their policy. Now K1 visa applicants must show proof of covid vaccinations at their consular medical, not only after arrival when applying for adjustment of status.
And if multiple vaccinations are required,
all must be administered before the granting of Visa or Green Card.
Not only the Pfizer, Moderna Johnson & Johnson vaccinations approved for use in the USA will be acceptable but any covid vaccination that is approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) will also be acceptable.
Alternative vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Covishield and Covaxin, Sputnik, Sinopharm and Sinovac, among others are currently acceptable to meet the vaccination requirement.
If the appropriate vaccines are not available, or not age-appropriate, such as for children under 12, or are medically inadvisable due to allergic reactions or other medical issues, an automatic waiver is granted.
This will be handled by the Clinic providing consular medicals, or the USCIS civil surgeon in USA while confirming vaccinations.
If the application has moral or religious objections she or he will need to apply for waiver, which would be granted or denied at US immigration’s discretion
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach,
here to personally guide you on this journey.
US Immigration to clear K1 Fiance Visa + CR1 Spouse Visa Pending Interview Backlogs
Good News, the US Government is taking action to clear Fiance + Spouse Visa applicants who have been waiting on Consular Interviews. After 15 months of curtailment
of consulate services, US immigration has about 500,000 cases on hold pending interviews. To address this issue, $5.6 billion dollars is budgeted by Department of State and $345 million is budgeted by USCIS for manpower and facilities to help clear the backlog.
It has been a rough ride for the past 15 months for Fiancee and Spouse visa applicants.
On March 18, 2020 in fear of the spread of Covid 19, US Embassies and Consulates around the world
locked their doors to the public, cancelling all scheduled visa interviews.
Some of my clients had even traveled long distances to attend their interviews, and without
receiving any warning from the Embassy arrived in time for their interviews only to find the gates to the consulate locked
and were turned away by the guards.
And very sadly some of these clients, who at that time were at their very end of their application process and had only the
interview remaining are still waiting even today.
Normally with a Fiancee or Spouse visa case once it leaves USCIS it goes to the State Departments
offices in New Hampshire called the National Visa Center or NVC. The cases usually don’t stay at NVC
for very long, before being forwarded overseas to the destination consulate for the interview.
Well due to Covid 19, instead of NVC being just a short layover for a case, NVC has become a warehouse.
Cases are being held, stockpiled at NVC awaiting good news from consulates advising that they have resumed normal operations
and are open to the public for interviews.
Some consulates reopened within a few months. some consulates still remain closed..
In February 2017 at the beginning of President Trumps presidency,
there were almost 3,000 cases in process, temporarily on hold at NVC.
this February 2021, due to Covid 19’s throttling down of consulate operations, there are now roughly100 times more, about 300,000 cases
on hold, warehoused at NVC.
So what can be done?
Well, good news. Plans are in the works to address the problem.
And this is the same problem and the same solution we have all experienced at our local grocery store.
You’ve done your shopping and you want to pay. Well the checkout line is long,
and it’s taking forever to finish your transaction and get out of there. So what
does the store management do. Do they let customers leave without paying? No.
What they do is put another cashier on the till and open another checkout line.
US immigration is going to do the same thing. They are not going to let applicants
skip the interview, but what they are going to do is open up more facilities, and
hire more officers to conduct interviews and issue visas.
President Biden’s current budget proposal is to grant the US state department
$5.4 Billion to hire 1,200 officer and expand facilities. Also added to the budget
is $345 million for USCIS to address their backlog as well.
So far already, the State Department has doubled up on interview availability in
Mexico, by now opening up the US embassy in Mexico City to also conduct visa
interviews in addition to the consulate in Juarez, which previously had be the
only location were immigrant visas were issued. I expect that this trend
will continue where additional secure locations are found to help add more
“check out lines” for visa interviews to take place.
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach,
here to personally guide you on this journey.
Philippines Re-opens !!
allows tourists to visit.
This means if your romantic life has been on hold, and you have been unable to apply for your Filipino Fiancé or spouse, because you’ve been locked out of the Philippines since March 2020, and you have Been unable to satisfy the in-person meeting requirement, well, now you can.
Philippines has announced that they will be open for international tourists starting on February 10. Yes we know they have said this before, but this time, I think it’s for real.
Visitors from the USA, as well as from 150 other countries that don’t require visas for the Philippines Can now enter, and if fully vaccinated do not have to undergo any quarantine.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers are welcome too, but have to quarantine for five days, followed by nine days at home.
All travelers are required to provide proof of a negative PT-PCR test taken within 48 hours before flying.
If you’ve been waiting to apply to bring your fiancé or spouse to the USA, and the stumbling block, has been that you have been waiting on the in-person meeting, now you can get it done.
The trip that you take, the trip that you have been waiting for for so long,
is critical to your immigration success. On your trip you’ve got to touch all
of the required bases, you’ve got to document what you are doing fully and
you need to bring back to the USA all of the various documents, proofs,
photographs, and evidence, necessary to complete your application.
The time to hire me to help you, it’s not after you return to the USA.
You want to hire me NOW BEFORE you go.
Getting started early, before your trip, allows us to get a jump start on
your front loaded application. I can counsel you on what needs to be done,
and teach you the best ways to document what happens, I send you with
detailed instructions and checklists, and I am standing by to answer your
questions via email or telephone while you are traveling and get answers to you promptly when you really need the answer right away.
That way we can work together to ensure that you bring back everything
needed so we can submit your winning application, immediately upon your return,
Bon voyage !!
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach,