As of July 16, 2020 the US Consulates in Sydney and Perth have announced a resumption of certain limited immigrant and non-immigrant visa services “including travelers with urgent travel needs and students (F, M and J categories).” The US Consulate Melbourne remains unable to resume routine visa services currently. Note that in Sydney and Perth even with this announcement, as of today only emergency appointments may be available for both qualifying immigrant and non-immigrant visas.
As previously indicated on March 17, 2020 in Australia and by March 20 worldwide routine visa services were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the US Department of State has announced a plan to have a “phased resumption of routine visa services.”
We have previously outlined many of the visa categories both non-immigrant and immigrant that have been temporarily suspended by Presidential Proclamations by the Trump Administration due to the perceived impacts on the U.S. labor market of those visa applicants. Due to the Presidential Proclamations, certain visa types may not be able to be issued at this time even under an emergency appointment. There has been some additional guidance on National Interest Exemptions to the Presidential Proclamations discussed in our prior blog.
The Case for an Emergency Consulate Appointment for Urgent Travel
The process for requesting an emergency appointment is different depending on the type of visa category and the urgent need to travel to the United States.
The decision to grant an emergency appointment is at the discretion of the Consulate and cannot be appealed. An applicant who is refused an expedited appointment must keep their original appointment.
For a non-immigrant visa, such as an E-3 visa, an emergency (expedited) appointment is subject to a procedure for making a request through US Travel Docs online in Australia. Currently, US Consulates in Australia have extremely limited emergency and expedited appointments available for urgent student travel, business travel in the US economic interest, working in response to COVID-19 in the US, and urgent medical travel. The guidance indicates that “[t]ravel for the purpose of attending weddings and graduation ceremonies, assisting pregnant relatives, participating in an annual business/academic/professional conference, or enjoying last-minute tourism does not qualify for expedited appointments.”
How Do I Get an Emergency Visa for the USA?
An emergency appointment for a non-immigrant visa application requires a careful application and following a strict procedure related to the application. If you would like further information regarding your eligibility for an emergency non-immigrant visa appointment, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
For an immigrant visa, currently only spouses and minors (under the age of 21), unmarried children of US citizens, are being processed. An emergency appointment for an immigrant visa generally can only be requested once the immigrant visa case is at the National Visa Center (NVC). An expedited processing request with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a still pending I-130 Petition is a separate process and may be very limited.
If a US citizen living in Australia has not yet filed the I-130 Petition for a spouse or minor child that may require urgent immigrant visa processing, please see our I Have A US Citizen Spouse – How Can I Apply For A Green Card? blog.
For an immigrant visa appointment to be expedited a request is made through the NVC and forwarded to the US Consulate in Sydney in Australia to consider the request. The NVC then communicates if the expedite request has been approved, and the Consulate then will follow-up related to further immigrant visa processing.
Expedited requests are only considered on a case-by-case basis and require a careful application process through NVC. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your circumstances and eligibility for an expedited appointment.
About The Author
Melissa Vincenty is a U.S. Attorney, a registered Australian Migration Agent and the founder and managing director of Worldwide Migration Partners. Melissa has over 25 years of experience in U.S. Immigration Law, including practising at the world’s largest U.S. Immigration Firm and more than 15 years as a Country Specialist (China and Tibet) for Amnesty International USA.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is general in nature, may not, and is not intended to constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information, and is for general informational purposes only. It does not represent legal advice specific to any individual/s situation, and should not be relied on as such. Please contact us for a consultation for legal advice for your individual circumstances.