Because most U.S. embassies and consulates are still operating at a reduced capacity due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOS has announced a priority system for the processing and scheduling of interviews for immigrant visa (IV) applications. A significant backlog of applications remains for IV (as well as for nonimmigrant visa) applicants waiting for a visa interview. As DOS’s primary mission is to serve U.S. citizens abroad, foreign national visa applicants are not a top priority for the department. As of May 2021, there were more than 500,000 immigrant visa applications waiting processing. A reduced number of applicants are processed each day (and has been for well over a year), as the consulates worldwide adhere to social distancing and other preventative measures.
The following is DOS’s priority for IVs, in this order:
- Tier One: Certain special immigrant visas, immediate-relative intercountry adoption visas, and age-out cases, which are cases where children will soon no longer qualify due to their age.
- Tier Two: Immediate relative visas, fiancé visas, and returning resident visas.
- Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and special immigrant visas for certain U.S. government employees located abroad.
- Tier Four: All other remaining immigrant visas, including diversity and employment-based visas.
DOS is also prioritizing the processing of IV cases previously refused under the now-rescinded Presidential Proclamations 9645 and 9983, which suspended entry into the United States of certain nationals from Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen. IV applicants who were refused due to P.P. 9645 or 9983 and whose eligibility for a waiver was still being evaluated as of January 20, 2021, will continue to have their applications processed and prioritized.
It is hoped that this priority system of processing visa applications and scheduling interviews along with the easing of the global impact of COVID-19 will result in a significant clearing of backlogged applications.