Reopening of U.S. Consulates / Aging-out, H-4, L-2, J-2 Visas Exemption

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the US, it has become increasingly difficult for overseas applicants to apply for visas to enter the US.  Since March, the US embassies and consulates have been closed for business.  Then, President Trump issued two executive orders banning issuance of immigrant visas and also the H-1B, L-1 and J-1 visas from overseas.  It seems like the US has closed its doors to the world.  Recently, however, the Department of State (DOS) has made some announcements that are positive and encouraging to visa applicants. 

Gradual Resumption of U.S. Visa Services

First, DOS announced on July 14, 2020 that US Embassies and Consulates are beginning "a phased resumption of routine visa services."  It does not mean that all visa services will soon be resumed in all countries.  Instead, the reopening will occur on a "post-by-post basis," depending on local situation and health conditions.  All posts will continue to provide emergency and other mission-critical visa services.   Gradually, they will resume the routine visa services to the public.  
The State Department does not provide specific reopening dates for each Embassy and Consulate.  Instead, the public must check with their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain updated information.   It should be noted that President Trump's visa ban and travel restrictions are still in effect. Hence, resumption of visa services will only be limited to certain visa categories such as B-1 visitor visa, B-2 business visa, F-1 and M-1 student visa, etc., and other exempt categories such as spouses and children of US citizens.  However, due to the large number backlogged cases, one should expect longer waiting and processing times.
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Exemption from Trump's Proclamation:  Aging-out Children and H-4, L-2 & J-2 Dependents
DV-2020 Applicants Excluded

The State Department also clarified on July 16, 2020, that the President's visa ban has certain exceptions.  In addition to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security, children who are aging out may also request for exemption form the ban.  Specifically, if an immigrant visa applicant is going to age-out before or within two weeks of the expiration date of the visa ban, he or she may seek exemption.  
Further, if the H, L or J principal visa holder is exempt from the visa ban, their dependents are also exempt. So for example, if an H-1B principal is allowed to enter the US to perform a mission-critical assignment for the US government, her spouse and children will also be issued H-4 visas to enter.  
Importantly, dependents of H, L, J visa holders who are already present in the US will also be allowed to apply for dependent visas (H-4, L-2, and J-2) to enter.  This exception will allow many non-immigrant workers to be reunited with their family members. 
However, the State Department emphasized that Diversity Visa 2020 applicants are still subject to President Trump's visa ban, unless they had already been issued visas before the proclamation's effective date.  
Finally, DOS stated that valid visas will not be revoked on account of President Trump's proclamations.
Visa services are still very far from back to normal. However, these announcements represent a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. 


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Paul Szeto LLC.
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