All U.S. embassies and consulates have suspended all routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa services, and no announcement has been made about when DOS plans to reopen them. It is likely that posts will reopen on a rolling basis depending on the circumstances on the ground. In fact, little guidance has been issued. The National Visa Center, which vets most immigrant visa applications for consular processing, continues to operate and is processing cases.
Automatic Extension of J-1 Visas
DOS has advised program sponsors that it will provide two-month extensions to certain J-1 exchange visitors to program end dates in SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) on active records with a program end date between April 1 and May 31, 2020. In addition, those in J-1 visa status who completed their exchange program in March but remain in the U.S. due to circumstances beyond their control (such as lack of flights home, etc.) may be able to reinstate or extend program end date to May 31, 2020. Program sponsors were advised to submit the necessary documentation by April 15.
DOS Update on Visas for Medical Professionals
The State Department has advised that medical professionals with an approved U.S. nonimmigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129 or I-140 with a current priority date, or similar), or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, should review the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for procedures to request an emergency visa appointment. U.S. embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services to the extent possible, given resource constraints and local government restrictions.
Other DOS Concerns
The State Department has not directly addressed the issue of how unemployment benefits will affect public-charge determinations made by consular officers at U.S. consulates overseas, nor has it confirmed whether treatment or care related to COVID-19 will be considered as part of its public charge totality-of-the-circumstances analysis.