The U.S. Department of State’s Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), a system critical to visa issuance, is experiencing technical problems. This has limited the State Department’s visa processing capacity. In turn, there have been worldwide delays in nonimmigrant visa issuance all across the globe.
In order to assist individuals affected by these problems, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will work in conjunction with the Department of State to exercise legal authority that will waive nonimmigrant visa requirements for admission on a case by case basis.
CBP and DOS have provided some guidelines regarding the procedures that are being put into place to assist the individuals who have applied for but have not been issued nonimmigrant visas due to the ongoing problems.
A nonimmigrant visa applicant may request considerations for special travel permission to the United States if their travel is considered urgent due to an “emergency” or because it directly impacts U.S. national interest. Emergencies include urgent humanitarian travel and life-and-death situations. Business engagements and U.S. employment needs are generally not considered humanitarian emergencies. However, they may be considered on a case-by-case basis under certain circumstances.
CBP and DOS joint task force teams will confer on a 24/7 basis regarding individual emergency travel requests in order to process these requests as quickly as possible. Should travel permission be granted, it will be facilitated by DOS. The consular post that accepted the visa application will release the traveler’s passport and will issue a transportation letter, which should be presented to the carriers allowing boarders of international U.S. bound flights. Upon entry to the U.S. and presentation of the travel letter, CBP will execute an I-193 application to waive the nonimmigrant visa requirements for admission. This will also waive the $585 processing fee for the I-193.
In order to request emergency travel, the individual must have a pending visa application with DOS and the visa must be issuable aside from the CCD system problems. Applicants who have been issued a 221(g) notice indicating pending administrative processing are not eligible to request emergency travel accommodations.
DOS may not directly inform visa applicants whether or not the delay in visa issuance is the result of the CCD problems. DOS suggests that those with emergency travel needs should affirmatively communicate with DOS to provide proof of their circumstances. This can occur either at the visa interview or through email after the visa appointment with facilitation centers or consular mailboxes. Each consular post may have a different preferred method of communication, so be sure to check beforehand.
If a request for emergency travel is not approved and facilitated by DOS, CBP strongly discourages petition-based applicants from traveling to the U.S. of their own accord using a visitor’s visa or ESTA registration. CBP has sent guidance to all ports of entry regarding these procedures and will only consider a CCD-related I-193 waiver if it has run through DOS. Individual requests made at a port of entry will be referred back to DOS.
If you would like more information on obtaining a U.S. visa, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!