With almost 250 million cases and 5 million deaths all over the world, the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic is undeniable. The virus has had devastating effects on people’s health and morbidity rates. In addition, it has had a profound impact on other aspects of life, such as business and immigration.
If you’re only just getting involved with immigration applications or defenses— whether your own or a loved one’s — you may not understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on timelines. Here’s everything you need to know.
Routine Visa Suspension
In March of 2020, routine visas were suspended. Although some visas are currently being processed— depending on the consulates or embassies in varying countries — all immigration timelines were severely affected by the numerous suspensions.
After a while, some consulates or embassies began to allow emergency appointments for those with mitigating circumstances who desperately needed to get to the United States – such as for those applying for CR-1 visas, i.e. conditional permanent resident spousal visas. Other visas, however, such as the K-1 fiancé visa, were suspended for over a year. Since an uncomplicated K-1 visa would usually take one year to be approved, this suspension added an entire year to the normal processing time.
The ban also affected the diversity visa, as well as many work-based visas.
Although most of these bans have now ended, it left an incredible backlog with the USCIS offices, causing tremendous extensions of processing timelines. In short, COVID-19 has caused immigration to be an even slower process.
In-Person Office Ban
All in-person appointments at the domestic offices, as well as at the embassies and consulates abroad, were banned and closed down to visitors seeking routine visas. That meant people who were already in the country seeking to remove conditions on their green cards or who were applying for naturalization were forced to wait for an indefinite amount of time, stretching the COVID-immigration-processing timeline.
Limited services only resumed in June of 2021. Currently, because USCIS can’t see as many people, because of the COVID-19 protocol of limiting waiting room capacity, the immigration timeline for even those already in the country is much longer than it once was.
Over half a million people have been pushed away from the US-Mexico border with no opportunity to seek asylum. That includes people from many different countries, who may have had a legitimate reason to seek asylum.
In this age of COVID-19, border patrol officers are allowed to expel anyone whom they think may be a threat to public health, i.e. bringing the virus into the USA. Thus, officers are given autonomy to decide on their own and according to their own criteria who qualifies to be excluded.
Seeking asylum in the USA has always been a long, and often difficult process to navigate, but it’s become even more challenging because of the policies introduced during this pandemic.
Immigration Timelines Have Been Drastically Affected
If you’ve tried to immigrate during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll know exactly how hard it is to come to the USA. If you’re about to begin your journey, you should know that restrictions are easing but there is a massive backlog of paperwork that USCIS and the National Visa Center have to process.
Be aware, be patient, and seek the advice of an immigration lawyer to make sure everything is done right.