How VisaCoach, USCIS, National Visa Center and US Consulates Worldwide are responding to Coronavirus, Covid-19
I hope you all have been keeping safe during this coronavirus crisis.
I have three children. The oldest, my son just got married on March 14. The bride requested I lose my goatee for the wedding photos.
The wedding celebration that we held, with 65 guests, at a wonderful Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles, was held only two days, before the Governor of California prohibited all large social gatherings, and closed all restaurants as well. We just made it under the wire. It’s been two weeks since, and no one from our guest list have reported any issues. Thank goodness.
My two youngest children are now back at home. My son had started work in Washington DC, and his company switched to remote, stay at home work. So for the time being, he is back in San Diego California working from home. My youngest child, a sophomore at University, in New Orleans, also is back, after her school closed down dormitories, and switched to online only classes.
I am lucky and relieved to have my family under my roof. I hope you and your family are fairing Equally well.
I have made arrangements for some of my staff to telecommute, and I and Joyce will continuously man the VisaCoach office from home. This means uninterrupted service for all of our clients.
The support we provide is direct and personal. We know each of our clients by name. so when you need to talk to me you can just still, just as usual, pick up the phone and we can talk together. I have never pawned off my clients to talk with a random stranger, working from an overseas call center off a generic, impersonal pre-written script. I suspect that my competitors who use such crowded boiler room call centers have probably hung out their clients, to dry during this time. At the same time me and my staff are still here, to provide, personal and direct help for your case.
Starting about a month ago, in China, US embassy and consulates there restricted and cancelled in-person interviews and meetings. My Chinese cases, all were brought to an immediate halt in processing. I even had some cases where the foreign spouse or fiancee had their visas, and were enjoying a last Chinese New Year celebration with family in China, before flying to the USA.They are now stuck in China waiting for flights to USA to resume.
I have recommended that these clients standby, until the planes resume flying and the consulates resume operations. If they are not able to use the visa before it’s 6 month validity expires, I anticipate that eventually their visas will be extended.
More recently, towards the end of March, ALL US consulates, worldwide, have closed their doors for what they call non-essential services. Sorry but interviewing applicants for visas to the USA, even for fiancées and spouses of American Citizens, is not considered essential. So all these cases have been put on hold.
When USCIS, in the USA, approves an application for a Fiancee or spouse visa they give the beneficiary 4 months to take action to arrange and attend the consulate interview. Here too, I expect that if a validity period expires, that the consulate would extend the validity requirement once the consulate resumes normal operations. I have advised my clients that even though it is not possible to BOOK an interview, they should, anyway, PAY the consulate visa fee. This is the best way to show US immigration you are pursuing the visa, to ensure one’s place in line is saved.
Stateside, USCIS has also implemented the practice of social distancing. Meaning that all in- person interviews have been cancelled. Their closure was so abrupt that they seemed to just go home, without taking any action to contact applicants who were attending already scheduled interviews. They didn’t bother, even to contact them by email or text. I advised my clients to just stay home and not bother to drive to a shuttered USCIS local office.
I do note that a week later, we are starting to get approval and other notices from USCIS, so apparently the lights ARE still on in their back offices, and their work reviewing and processing pending and new cases is still proceeding. It is too soon to tell, but I would expect that even though work is still proceeding, it probably will move slower than usual.
What should you do?
If your case is already in process, expect delays. But the good news is your case is still moving forward, and this situation unlike an earthquake or flood has not damaged the infrastructure, or tools that the processing staff use. Everything is still in place and intact, and everything is ready to ramp up to full speed when the restrictions for quarantines and social distancing are lifted.
If your case has not been submitted yet, you have a decision to make. Do you already have enough evidence to demonstrate you have a bona relationship and is your case already strong enough to have a good chance of approval? Or do you need to make another trip in order to collect better evidence to ensure approval?
If you have enough, right now, then I suggest you move forward to finalize your application and submit right away. After all, you don’t know when the next time will come when you can meet in-person again. I hope that the planes will fly in a few months, but who knows? While being quarantined at home, your evidence is not getting stronger, and the longer you delay before you actually submit, the weaker your case looks. So take positive action to submit now. Use your downtime at home to bring your partner closer to joining you in the USA.
Of course one of the elements of the service I provide to my clients is that I review and take a long and hard look at all evidence you have when I choose the best way to present your application and story. IF I think you really should wait for more, I will clearly let you know my advice and opinion. I am not about letting my clients shoot themselves in the foot.
You still will face the same slower processing that everyone else is facing, but you will still be ahead of the game. Because there are a lot of couples who do not meet the eligibility requirements. Their applications are on hold waiting for the planes to fly. However, once they do start flying, then immediately afterwards there will be a big wave of new applications submitted at the same time, about a month after the quarantine is lifted. By applying now your application will be well ahead of those that apply then.
Sorry, but if you are currently short of the critical evidence needed for success, if you have been waiting to make that all important final critical trip, before submitting, perhaps to meet your fiancé for the first time in-person, or to have your wedding and honeymoon, sorry but your plans for bringing your partner to the USA, will suffer the longest delays.
Yes we can and should start working well before your trip. Yes we can start working together now. We can prepare your documents, and checklists now. We can get most of the logistics out of the way, so that once the aircraft fly again, your final trip will be properly planned in advance and will know exactly what to bring back so we can submit IMMEDIATELY on your return to the USA. It’s not ideal, but based on the current situation it would be the fastest way to bring your fiance or spouse home to the USA.
One of the most common questions I am being asked is “what will the Consulate, or USCIS or NVC” do about my not being able to use a visa, or have an interview on time?
Well, frankly I don’t think there is anything to worry about on that score. Just as you and I are suffering inconveniences by not being allowed to travel, forced to distance oneself from others, lines and shortages at stores, the same applies to the people who are charged with processing and approving your case. We are all in this together, and the problems and delays that you are facing, will be well understood by the people on the other side of the interview desk.
This is uncharted territory for all of us, but I am sure that common sense and human compassion will prevail on how your immigration journey is handled by the authorities.
In closing, I hope you and your family keep safe and healthy and that we all come out of this together and in one piece.
This was Fred Wahl, the VisaCoach