On July 14, the U.S. State Department announced that U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services that have been suspended due to COVID-19. This will occur on a post-by-post basis. This is in addition to emergency and mission-critical visa services that posts have been providing since March.
The State Department does not provide a specific date for when each post will resume specific visa services. See each individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering.
The State Department gives the following examples of routine visa services that may be priorities for resumption:
- travelers with urgent travel needs;
- students (F-1, M-1, and certain J-1); and
- some family members of U.S. citizens consistent with Presidential Proclamation 10014.
To date, the U.S. Mission in China’s website has not posted information about the resumption of routine visa services.
But an email from the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou states that as of July 6 they have “resumed limited immigrant visa services. This includes case processing of spouses and children of U.S. citizens, employment-based health care professionals, children who will imminently become 21 years old, and qualified emergencies. U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou continues to prioritize adoption visa processing.”
On June 17, the State Department announced that routine visas services remain suspended at U.S. posts worldwide, but as resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Mission-critical immigrant visa categories may include applicants who may be eligible for an exception under the Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market, such as: IR/CR1, IR/CR2, IR/IH-3, IR/IH-4, SQ, SI, and certain employment-based medical professionals, as well as cases involving an applicant who may age out. While embassies and consulates may process these types of cases, their ability to do so may be limited by local government restrictions and available resources. In addition, an applicant’s ability to travel may be impacted by local laws, regulations, and travel restrictions.
On Mar. 20, the U.S. State Department announced the suspension of routine visa services in all countries worldwide.
Just two days before, Mar.18, the Department had announced the suspension of routine visa services in most countries worldwide. Reportedly, that suspension covered all countries for which the Department had issued levels 2, 3, or 4 travel advisories. But the following day, the Department warned U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel, issuing a worldwide level 4 travel alert.
According to the Mar. 20 announcement:
- In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.
- Services to U.S. citizens continue to be available. More information is available on each Embassy’s website.
- This does not affect the Visa Waiver Program. See https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/faq?focusedTopic=Schengen%20Travel%20Proclamation for more information.
- Although all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments are cancelled, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee is valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.
- Applicants with an urgent matter and need to travel immediately should follow the guidance provided at the Embassy’s website to request an emergency appointment.