Getting a visa for immigration to the U.S. is tougher than ever. COVID-19, or coronavirus, has caused U.S. embassies to cancel routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments in many countries as of March 20, 2020. Those who have applied and are waiting for approval are now facing an even longer wait to get visas and see their family in the U.S. Many people have been waiting years to get their visas and the coronavirus has the potential to add more years to the wait.
Why the Wait is so Long
The coronavirus has caused a reduction in staffing numbers at the National Visa Center (NVC) which processes immigrant visas from all around the world. The NVC receives and pre-processes immigrant visas that have been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A visa that has been pre-processed will be pulled for issuance when the priority date meets the cut-off date. A lack of staff at the NVC directly impacts the timely processing of immigrant visas and slows down approval for those who have reached this critical juncture for approval.
Another aspect complicating visa issuance is the fact the current administration has made it more difficult for people from many countries to immigrate to the United States. Those who have family already in the United States typically rely on that connection to get a family based immigrant visa and start their journey towards a green card. Unfortunately, the State Department will only issue a total of 226,000 visas for family and 156,000 for employment visas in 2020. Meanwhile, countries like Mexico and the Philippines have a total of 1,200,000 and 291,392 applicants respectively. Over 3 million people from around the world have submitted applications to apply for immigration to the United States.
The restrictive numbers for visa issuance is making it harder than ever and wait times to get a visa even longer. The dream of becoming a U.S. citizen is pushed further out of reach for many who want to take advantage of their family connections in the States. It's time to get creative and think outside of the box when it comes to immigration visas.
Applying for a Visa Under a Different Category
The family based immigration strategy for those with relatives already living in the U.S. is normally the strongest option for getting residency, but it's not the only one. An individual may be eligible for a visa under different criteria and spend less time waiting to immigrate. Employment visas are one potential option as they can get an individual in the U.S. more quickly along with employment.
The most famous employment visa is the H1-B which covers specialty occupations such as technology. It's a non-immigrant and dual-intent visa that has the potential to allow for permanent migration. Another type of employment visa that's less well-known is the L-1B or intracompany transferee specialized knowledge visa. This visa is also non-immigrant and there may be an option to petition for a change in status and work towards gaining residency.
Some visa categories don't have a quota, but require the building of or investment in a new or existing business. The E-2 investor visa program requires an individual to invest in and retain control of a business after it's been established. The visa also extends to non-investor employees who are essential to the operation. The E-2 lasts anywhere from three months to five years and are extendable indefinitely.
No one can predict what the future may bring, and coronavirus makes the future more uncertain than ever. Start planning a new visa strategy as soon as possible and get around the quotas and wait times.
Lazaro Law Group, Managing Attorney