Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) October 8, 2021 – On August 30, 2021, the Department of State (“DOS”) announced an update to its immigrant visa processing priorities amid ongoing delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. consulates and embassies have been instructed to use a tiered system to determine which categories of immigrant visa applications to process first.
DOS emphasized that family reunification is the top objective of the government’s immigration policy. The Department said its updated visa processing guidance aligns with directions from Congress to prioritize applications for immediate relative visas and K-1 fiancés of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visas.
“The DOS priorities are good news for a U.S. citizen who wants to bring his or her spouse, or who wants to bring a foreign national fiancé to the U.S.,” commented Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “While love may conquer all, COVID-19 and government processing delays have been a great frustration, and especially hard hit are those couples who have waited so long to marry. Now, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Many U.S. embassies and consulates continue to experience significant application backlogs across all immigrant visa categories due to pandemic-related operational constraints and travel restrictions. The updated prioritization plan urges posts to process as many immediate relative and fiancé cases as possible to prevent the backlog from expanding.
The DOS has divided immigrant visas into four priority tiers. Tier One consists of age-out cases, immediate relative intercountry adoption applications, some Special Immigrant Visas and emergency cases decided on a case-by-case basis. In light of the COVID-19 Delta variant’s emergence, immigrant visa cases of certain health care professionals will be prioritized as emergency cases.
Tier Two comprises visas for immediate relatives, fiancés and returning residents. Tier Three includes family preference immigrant visas and certain Special Immigrant Visas for U.S. government employees overseas. Tier Four covers employment preference visas, diversity visas and all other immigrant visas.
The DOS prioritization plan also instructs U.S. embassies and consulates to adjudicate some Tier Three and Tier Four applications each month. The Department acknowledged that applicants in lower-priority visa categories are likely to experience further delays.
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