Visa Operations Update: DOS Announces Immigrant Visa Prioritization
On April 30, 2021, U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced U.S. embassies and consulates are using a tiered approach to triage immigrant visa applications as DOS works to reduce the backlog of such applications resulting from travel restrictions and operational constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tiered approach focuses on family reunification, prioritizing immediate relative visa applicants and K-1 fiancées of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visa applicants.
Specifically, DOS identified four main categories of immigrant visas in priority order:
- Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government)
- Tier Two: Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
- Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
- Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas
Consular sections will be scheduling some appointments within all four priority tiers every month, where possible. Under this tiered approach, certain applicants, particularly those in Tiers Three and Four, will continue to face delays. Although the diversity visa program and certain lower-priority preference categories operate on a fiscal year basis, DOS anticipates the number of visas issued in such categories will not approach the statutory ceiling in Fiscal Year 2021.
The volume and type of visa cases each post will process will continue to depend on local conditions and embassy/consulate capacity limitations. Consular sections plan to resume all routine visa services once it is safe to do so in that particular location.
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