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COVID-19 Employment-Based Immigration Family Immigration

Applying for a Replacement or New Immigrant Visa

An immigrant visa is generally valid for a period of up to 6 months. You must enter the U.S. within this 6-month period.[1] Consular officers do not have the authority to extend the validity of an immigrant visa (IV). But, as explained below, it may be possible to apply for a replacement or new IV. For example, the State Department has discussed with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that travel restrictions and health issues related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic may justify issuance of replacement or new IVs. Feel free to contact our law firm for help.

Replacement Visa

If you don’t enter the U.S. during the validity of your IV (or you foresee that you may not be able to), it may be possible to obtain a “replacement” visa if[2]

  1. you were unable to use the visa during the period of its validity due to reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible; and
  2. the replacement visa is issued during the same fiscal year in which the original visa was issued. (Federal fiscal years run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30).

The first step is to contact the consular post where the IV was issued to explain why you were unable to use the visa during the period of its validity. If the consular post agrees that you may qualify for a replacement visa, you must return any previously issued visa approval packet. You must pay the IV application processing fee again, unless you can prove that you were unable to use the visa as a result of action by the U.S. Government over which you had no control.[3] You also would need new passport-style photos, a new medical exam, and new police certificates if you need a visa valid beyond the expiration date of the police certificates you previously filed.[4]

New Visa

If you don’t qualify for a replacement visa but will be or were unable to use an IV during its validity period because of reasons within your control, you can submit a “new” visa application if the petition has not been revoked and if the basis for immigration still exists (i.e., familial relationship or job offer). This is also true for new IV applications outside of the original IV’s fiscal year of issuance.[5] In visa categories subject to waiting lists, there must be a visa number immediately available.

The first step is to contact the consular post where the IV was issued to explain why you were unable to use the visa during the period of its validity. Applying for a new visa would involve returning any previously issued visa approval packet, filing a new Form DS-260, filing a new set of supporting documents, attending another interview, and paying a new IV application processing fee.

  1. INA § 221(c)(1). 22 C.F.R. § 42.72, 42.64(b).
  2. INA § 221(c)(3); 22 CFR § 42.74(b); 9 FAM 504.10-5.
  3. INA § 221(c)(3); 9 FAM 504.10-5.
  4. See, e.g., U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, Frequently Asked Questions (last viewed Apr. 8, 2020).
  5. 9 FAM 504.10-5. New diversity visas can only be issued in the same, not subsequent, fiscal years.

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