By Dev Banad Viswanath, Esq.
It was announced that as of March 16, 2020 all US Consulates in India and which includes the Embassy shall cease to schedule or entertain any visa appointments, which include both immigrant (Green Cards/Lawful Residence) and Non-immigrant (Temporary – Visitor, H1B Employee, Religious R1, L1 Intra Company Transferee, F1 Student, etc.) visas.
If a person was already scheduled for a visa appointment, the consulate already cancelled it and no one who was scheduled prior to March 16th should attend those appointments. If you get an appointment by consular notification after March 16th you may attend because that would be the consulate has resumed processing. If you scheduled your non-immigrant visa on your own, that too has been cancelled. We are also noticing that people who already had their interview and were asked to submit documents are finding trouble because the local VFS offices are saying that collection services are cancelled. This is all very disruptive and leaving families and individuals in despair in trying to find out if they can reunite with loved ones, start their job and work, or move ahead with their US plans.
The consular notice, which is also on the US Embassy website specifically states:
“U.S. Mission India posts, in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, are cancelling immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments from March 16, 2020, onward. Your visa appointment stands as cancelled. Once Mission India resumes regular consular operations, appointments will be made available and you will be able to reschedule. Please see www.ustraveldocs.com/in and in.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/ for further information.”
As the notice says, the visa appointments are cancelled “from 3/16/2020, onward.” Which means, until further notice. This leaves many folks in a sense of fear and disappointment and helplessness. We as attorneys are also uncertain of when appointments are going to be scheduled again. But there are things we can do, which I encourage people to inquire about.
We can act as notification and can set up appointments for clients when they become available again, unless this is for immigrant visas and generally the consular post will set the appointment up again. Also, if there are risks of losing status for staying in or staying out of the country, attorneys may be able to assist and advise.
One thing is for sure, these times are unprecedented and the US government is making changes to accommodate the new world we live in. Whatever the future holds, you can rest assured we will continue to update you on the state of US immigration and how it’s being affected by the Coronavirus/Covid -19.