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What is going on at the U.S. Consulates in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin & Italy?

By November 19, 2021Immigration
A US flag post in front of a parliament building

Consular Updates

Our attorneys recently attended an immigration conference where several consular chiefs were invited to speak about the current status of consular operations at their respective posts. Some key points are described below:

  • Consular staffing shortages – Many Consulates are currently experiencing staffing shortages and are in the process of training new consular officers. Training officers on complex nonimmigrant visas, such as the E visa, can take some time. At small posts, such as Dublin & Milan, the loss of even one officer will make a difference in the number of appointments & services offered.
  • Consular facilities & country conditions – Consulates with smaller waiting rooms and located in older buildings (Paris, Milan, Dublin) face particular challenges in scheduling as it is more difficult for them to allow for social distancing. Frankfurt & London have more modern and spacious Consulates and so they are able to accommodate more appointments. It was also noted that lockdowns within a specific country will impact the Consulate and their ability to work in person, which can sometimes lead to cancellations.
  • Interview waivers – The Department of State will now allow Consulates to waive interviews for visa renewals where the person is renewing a visa in the same category and was previously granted the visa in the last 48 months. F, M and academic J visa applicants may also have their interviews waived, even if applying for this type of visa for the first time, if they were previously granted any other visa. In order to be eligible for an interview waiver, the applicant must have never received a prior visa refusal and cannot have any other potential ineligibility (for example, a past criminal issue). Consulates have discretion to decide which visas are eligible for interview waivers and not all visa types are eligible at all Consulates. For example, London is not currently waiving interviews for E visa renewals.
  • Nonimmigrant visa services – None of the Consulates are running at full, pre-pandemic capacity, however they estimate that they are providing a volume of anywhere from 45-90% of visa services they previously provided. Most visa services are being offered, although this varies somewhat by Consulate. For example, London is scheduling all nonimmigrant visa appointments except for routine B1/B2 visas. Frankfurt indicated that they have capacity for nonimmigrant visa applications and do not currently have backlogs. London stated that a current challenge is high demand for visas across the board.
  • Third country nationals – All Consulates indicated that third country nationals are welcome to apply for visas at their Consulates. However, the Consulates do not ship passports across country lines, so applicants need to be prepared to attend the interview in the country and remain there to receive their passport with the visa stamp. Additionally, third country nationals must be prepared to meet the COVID-19 entry requirements of the particular country they are visiting.
  • Predictions for 2022 – It is still anticipated that it will take several months before visa services will approach more normal, pre-pandemic levels. Consulates are working through backlogs in immigrant & nonimmigrant visa cases and changes in country conditions can increase the backlog if the Consulate is forced to close due to country lockdowns or changes in COVID-19 requirements.

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