– Michael J. Gurfinkel
– The Philippine Star
On Dec. 13, 2021 the Department of State (DOS) published a temporary final rule (TFR) allowing consular officers the flexibility or discretion to waive the personal appearance (or interview) of certain repeat immigrant visa applicants: (a) who were previously approved for an immigrant visa in the same classification and on the same basis as their current application; and the previous visa was issued on or after Aug. 4, 2019, but it was not used or expired.
By law, every immigrant visa applicant must submit an application, which must be signed in the presence of a consular officer and verified under oath. This means every immigrant visa applicant must have an in-person interview with a consular officer.
Many people applied for their immigrant visa, appeared for their interview and their immigrant visa was issued, which was valid for six months. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit with various lockdowns, travel restrictions, etc. As a result, they did not travel to the US within the validity period of that immigrant visa and the visa expired, or it was lost or mutilated, etc.
Under these circumstances, they would have to apply for a new (or renewed) visa. Another immigrant visa interview would be an inconvenience to the visa applicant, who may have to travel a long distance. It would also unnecessarily increase the embassy’s workload and create further backlogs for interviews.
This TFR provides that a new interview may not necessarily be required. To qualify for this discretionary in-person waiver, an applicant must:
1. Have been issued a US immigrant visa on or after Aug. 4, 2019;
2. Seek an immigrant visa in the same classification and pursuant to the same approved petition as the previously issued immigrant visa;
3. Qualify for an immigrant visa in the same classification, or another classification as a result of automatic conversion due to the death or naturalization of the petitioner; and
4. Have no changed circumstances that could affect the applicant’s eligibility for the visa. For example, if a person was petitioned as “single” by their immigrant parent, but they married, they would no longer be eligible for the visa.
Depending on the circumstances, a repeat immigrant visa applicant may be required to submit a new Form DS-260/DS-230, in which case the applicant must also submit the required supporting documents and pay a new fee. It would seem likely the person may also be required to submit to a new medical exam or police clearance.
I know there have been many cases where a person was interviewed and their immigrant visa was issued. But because the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many could not travel to the US or were reluctant to do so. As a result, their immigrant visa expired. Under this guidance, the person must still submit another immigrant visa application, to have another/new immigrant visa issued. However, since they had already been interviewed in connection with their previous application, they may no longer be required to appear again at the US embassy for another in-person interview.
If this situation applies to you and your initial immigrant visa expired, you may want to consult with an attorney who can evaluate your situation and perhaps help move your case forward so that if you’re prepared to immigrate to the US and you meet the eligibility requirements for waiver of interview, the attorney can also assist in having a new visa issued.
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