The State Department Can Act To Reduce Visa Delays

When it comes to interview appointments in most temporary visa categories, the United States has a “Do Not Enter” sign lofted high for all to see. That is the reality based on interviews with attorneys and companies and a National Foundation for American Policy review of the leading source countries for visas. Past efforts and flexibility in the law illustrate the steps that the State Department can take to improve visa processing.

Consulate closures and limited processing have caused significant delays for visa appointments, leading companies to fear much-needed employees may never arrive in America. Attorney William Stock of Klasko Immigration Law Partners recently shared a thread showing a client’s interview in Paris for an O-1 visa has been bumped four times. Two other appointments scheduled for July, one for an L-1B visa (intracompany transferee), were canceled. The first new interview appointments in Paris appear to be in February 2022.

The State Department’s appointment wait time website page shows nearly all the major countries for U.S. visas are processing emergency appointments only. (See Table 1 for appointment wait times for temporary/nonimmigrant visas as of April 16, 2021.) That includes Beijing, Bogota, Frankfurt, London and Sao Paolo. “To get an expedited interview, you have to first make a regular appointment, and then you need to explain what are the factors, such as dire business need or family issues,” said Dagmar Butte of Parker, Butte & Lane in an interview. “So far, I am seeing that mere inconvenience or business interruption without demonstrable and serious financial consequences won’t do it.”

“It is very hit or miss whether an emergency appointment will be granted,” said Kevin Miner of the Fragomen law firm. “Especially after early March when the State Department issued new guidance on what qualifies for a National Interest Exception it has been particularly difficult. We were having quite a bit of success before that for executives and other senior business leaders, but that really closed down after the new guidance came out.”

By Stuart Anderson for FORBES
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