– Michael J. Gurfinkel –
The Philippine Star
Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world have been anxious to schedule their immigrant visa interview at the embassy, so they can finally travel to the US and be reunited with their family. (If petitioned by an employer, they want to begin working.) Because of shutdowns, lockdowns, reduced staffing at embassies and Trump’s ban on issuing immigrant visas and so forth, people have endured aggravating cancellation of appointments and the frustration of trying to get their interview scheduled or rescheduled.
Unfortunately, the policies on scheduling an interview keep changing, and people receive conflicting information as to who is eligible. At one time, there was a priority system, where spouses and children of US citizens were considered top priority and employment-based cases were last.
Sometimes, if a person contacts the National Visa Center (NVC) about their interview, they are told to contact the embassy for the appointment. If the person then contacts the embassy, they are told to contact the NVC to schedule the interview.
In the meantime, some embassies are so overwhelmed with existing backlogs of cases that they are not accepting any additional cases from the NVC.
While many people may still be eligible to schedule and be interviewed for their immigrant visa, there are certain people who may not be eligible and are instructed to NOT schedule an immigrant visa interview appointment at this time. Who is not eligible to schedule an immigrant visa interview at this time? Is your family member among those people? In this article, I will discuss the types of cases that would put a visa applicant ineligible for an immigrant visa interview at this time, based on “disclaimers” posted on the embassy website. If you are included in that group, this may explain why you’re coming up with dead ends when attempting to schedule your interview.
So, who should not schedule or reschedule their immigrant visa unit interview at this time?
• Persons who were already interviewed for an immigrant or K (fiancée) visa and were informed by the consul they are ineligible to receive the visa. A person can be found ineligible because of findings of fraud, where the consul suspects the relationship may not be bona fide, etc.
• The principal beneficiary had failed to reschedule his or her interview appointment within one year of the original appointment date. It could have been that a person already had an appointment and asked for it to be postponed or rescheduled, but they did not take steps to do so within one year. However, in many cases, it was the embassy that canceled the interview. There were also immigration bans, preventing people from scheduling appointments. Or, when people tried to schedule an appointment, they were advised that no appointments were available.
• The principal beneficiary failed to contact the US embassy for more than a year from when they were told the case is ready for final processing. In these situations, where the person fails to pursue their visa within one year, the case could be canceled or terminated.
• A K2 who did not apply for their K2 visa within one year from when their K1 parent’s visa was issued. In other words, sometimes the K1 visa is issued and the K1 goes to the US and marries their US citizen petitioner. In order for their child to follow them as a K2, the child must do so within one year.
• The priority date on the person’s case is not current. This could involve situations where the priority date had been current, but the priority dates then retrogressed or went backwards.
• The person’s case is still with the NVC. Before the pandemic, the NVC would process and package the case and then schedule the interviews at the embassy. However, at present, the embassies are scheduling the interviews and notifying the NVC to transfer the file to the embassy. Also, because embassies are so overwhelmed with existing cases, many are not requesting new or additional cases from the NVC.
• The person has not yet received instructions from the embassy or NVC to schedule their interview.
• Following to join (FTJ) spouses or children, where the principal applicant adjusted status in the US.
• Green card holders who are applying for returning resident status (SB1), where they have been outside the US for more than a year, for reasons beyond their control.
This list of cases, where people should not schedule interviews, appears to be complex or require time in order for the consuls to evaluate eligibility. It seems the embassies are taking a triage approach to dealing with the tremendous backlog and want to first process all the quick, simple and easy cases, get them out of the way, and then tackle the more complex cases, which might require reconsideration and in-depth analysis and evaluation.
If you or your case fits within this list, it is disappointing for you. But I would still advise that you contact or communicate with the embassy or NVC every year, to make sure they don’t terminate or shred your case. This is because despite the pandemic and scheduling of interviews, there is a requirement to communicate with the NVC or embassy every year, to let them know you are still interested. Even though their website states not to schedule your interview, I’ve seen situations where people follow those instructions and their case was terminated for failing to contact the NVC within a year.
If you have concerns about your case status or scheduling of interviews, I would recommend you consult with an attorney, to make sure the case is on track and eligible for visa interview. I will continue posting articles, providing updates on embassy interviews, because I know how important it is to so many people, either waiting to come to the US or for their families already in the US waiting for them to join them.
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