US Visa and Immigration Agency Re-opens But There Are Problems

As part of the US Government's actions to slow down the spread of coronavirus, US visa and immigration offices were closed down, halting the progress of any existing visa applications and preventing the application for any new ones.

On June 4 2020, some of the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) field offices re-opened. Due to the pandemic situation, the visa applications have a backlog for getting processed, so it could be some time before applicants get any progress on their applications. There is also going to be less staff working on processing visa applications, both due to financial cutbacks and with employees gradually going back to work, depending on their particular scenario.

The other bad news is that migrant applicants will not be able to arrange an appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate in their home country, as these are currently closed. It is uncertain when these will be re-opened but this means that it is not possible for US visa applicants to gain entry into the US at the current time.

Backlogs of visa applications

No plan has been announced to try and get through the huge backlog of visa applications and those who had already been approved have had to face the issue of not being able to have their oath ceremony due to the coronavirus.

Reports show that around 100,000 people have had ceremony cancellations and are unlikely to now get their US citizenship before the elections later in the year. This obviously means that they would be unable to register votes in the elections, which would act in Trump’s favour.

USCIS hit financially

Like most industries across the world, the USCIS has suffered financially as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Without visa fees and other revenue coming into the USCIS, the finances have been slashed and staff may need to be furloughed without a cash injection from Congress.

There are talks about conducting oath ceremonies virtually but USCIS has pushed back on this idea, reiterating that they must be conducted publicly and pointing out that some aspects of the ceremony needs to be done in physical presence.

As coronavirus rates are falling in the US and glimpses of normality is creeping back in with shops and other businesses re-opening, it is a concern for many people that the USCIS does not seem any closer to getting back to work as usual. Trump opposers are suggesting that the lack of financial support for the USCIS to continue processing visa applications is a tactic to stall immigration and citizenship, preventing huge numbers of immigrants from being able to vote.

However, USCIS spokesman Joe Sowers, said:

“A key aim of this agency has been and continues to be the timely naturalization of qualified and vetted candidates for American citizenship, any suggestion to the contrary ignores an 11-year high in naturalizations last year and a 12% reduction in pending naturalizations.”

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