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Getting a U.S. Visa During Covid Times

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So, when you attempt to get a U.S. visa from within the USA or from a U.S. Embassy will become a frustrating experience over a long, long, period of time. In pre-pandemic times (before 2020) getting a visa was still the same but the waiting times were much shorter. Even then, it was a test of personal patience.

When applying for a visa now, all your paperwork is submitted and uploaded into the Consular Electronic Application Center (ceac.state.gov/ceac/). Your first issue is that not all your forms needed will be available in the fillable format. This means, you will need to fill out the form in paper format and then create document scan in PDF format. Make sure the document file size is under the specific uploading requirements. You will need to this for any forms needed and personal ID things like, drivers license, passports etc. This could be a real issue for those not tech savvy as everything now is uploaded into the site (once you create an account). Because of poor and unclear user instructions, the website itself, functions in non-standard ways and the user will be frustrated as they learn from stumbling around.

For instance, once you upload your documents, many people will presume that they are done, uploaded is uploaded, right? No. Unless you also submit them, nothing at all will happen and your case is not looked at. This is critical because once submitted, the National Visa Center (NVC) case worker is notified a change has occurred.

The website is in English only. The NVC processes all visa types but due to Covid, their staffing is abysmal and the quality is bad, as well. You will find out that through email a staffer will request a document already submitted, while another will state they cannot read it. In other words, the quality is bad. Do not waste your time trying to contact the NVC. Despite the appearance of being customer oriented, the opposite is the truth. Calling the listed NVC number is just a recording that will disconnect within 20 seconds, without any options or being able to talk to a person. Their email address is never answered. If there IS an answer, they never actually answer to your questions but spit out a automated standard response.

The NVC seems to go out their way to be difficult with applicants, as even their email responses through CEAC are often cryptic or asking for the same thing already provided (it is like the case worker is different each time and does not bother to review the documents already provided).

Even should everything finally work out, the hand off for visas filed from the USA for those in other countries is conflicting. Once you obtain an interview date, the NVC transfers the case to the country specific embassy. Once done, you no longer deal with the NVC, but only the embassy, however, should you want to reschedule the assigned appointment, unless the embassy has received your case files, you cannot reschedule online via NVC, despite instructions you can. The case transfer can take up to three weeks once NVC sends you an interview date. If you cannot keep the the interview date, call the embassy and ask to escalate the case because you want to reschedule. Escalation simply means the case is in a tier that another person with authority will review. This could take weeks. You also can go to the set date if you can, but it is now optional. If you do not, you still have one year from the interview date to reschedule via the embassy (once NVC has sent them the case).

Covid has made the whole process much longer. Embassy staff levels change and many are understaffed now, the case backload is high that increases wait times. Embassies also are only focusing on certain types of Immigrant\Non-Immigrant visas giving them first priority. Even getting an IR2 visa (high priority) for a child to immigrate to the USA can now take 12-18 months due to Covid. Prior to 2020, it usually took 6-8 months.



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