On December 13, 2021, the Department of State (DOS) issued a Temporary Final Rule (TFR) allowing consular officials the flexibility or discretion to forgo the personal appearance (or interview) of certain visa applicants. repeat immigrant: (a) who have been previously approved for an immigrant visa in the same classification and on the same basis as their current application; and (b) the previous visa was issued on or after August 4, 2019, but it has not been used or has expired.
By law, every immigrant visa applicant must submit an application, which must be signed in the presence of a consular officer and verified under oath. This means that every immigrant visa applicant must have an in-person interview with a consular officer.
Many people applied for their immigrant visa, showed up for their interview, and their immigrant visa was issued, valid for six months. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit various lockdowns, travel restrictions, etc. As a result, they did not visit the United States during the validity period of this immigrant visa and the visa has expired, or it has been lost or mutilated, etc.
Under these circumstances, they would have to apply for a new (or renewed) visa. Another immigrant visa interview would be an inconvenience for the visa applicant, who might have to travel a long distance. It would also unnecessarily increase the embassy’s workload and create further delays for interviews.
This TFR provides that a new maintenance will not necessarily be necessary. To be eligible for this discretionary in-person exemption, an applicant must:
- Have obtained a U.S. immigrant visa on or after August 4, 2019;
- Seek out an immigrant visa in the same classification and in accordance with the same approved application as the previously issued immigrant visa;
- Qualify for an immigrant visa in the same classification, or another classification following an automatic conversion due to the death or naturalization of the applicant; and
- Have no change in circumstances that could affect the visa applicant’s eligibility. For example, if a person were designated as “single” by their immigrant parent, but married, they would no longer be eligible for the visa.
Depending on the circumstances, a repeat immigrant visa applicant may be required to submit a new DS-260 / DS-230 form, in which case the applicant must also submit the required supporting documents and pay a new fee. It would seem likely that the person would also be required to undergo a further medical examination or police clearance.
I know there have been many instances where a person has been interviewed and their immigrant visa issued. But because the COVID-19 pandemic has struck, many have not been able to make it to the United States or have been hesitant to do so. As a result, their immigrant visa expired. Under these guidelines, the person must always submit another immigrant visa application, to get another / new immigrant visa. However, since they were already interviewed as part of their previous application, they may no longer be required to report to the United States Embassy again for another in-person interview.
If this situation applies to you and your original immigrant visa has expired, you may want to consult a lawyer, who can assess your situation and perhaps help you move your case forward so that if you are ready to immigrate to the United States and you meet the eligibility requirements for the waiver of the interview, the lawyer can also help obtain a new visa.
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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been a lawyer for over 40 years and is a licensed and active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by or under the supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and the results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “success stories”, endorsements and reenactments) are general in nature and are not intended to apply to any particular instance, and do not constitute a prediction, guarantee, guarantee or advice regarding the outcome of your legal case. No lawyer-client relationship is or will be established with a reader.
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