Visa requests were processed very slowly during the COVID-19 pandemic and are still not processed very quickly. As a result, it has become difficult for U.S. employers who need visas for some of their foreign national employees.
One issue contributing to the slow processing times is staff shortages in U.S. embassies abroad. In addition, the backlogs caused by the slowdowns are forcing many non-immigrants to wait months to get an appointment.
It can take over a year to obtain an appointment at an embassy in some places. These slowdowns have led foreign workers to live separated lives from their families in extreme cases and wait long periods to begin working in many. It can also be difficult for U.S. businesses because foreign national employees must renew their visas abroad, further slowing down the process.
Employers may prove unable to speed up these processing times, but there are some steps they can take to help employees and themselves. Here are a few actions employers can take to help.
It is essential to communicate with foreign national employees to reduce the problems associated with visa issuance delays. It is also best for companies to have a travel plan for their foreign national employees. They should advise these employees not to leave the country unless necessary until they have obtained a visa appointment.
Furthermore, foreign national employees should speak with the human resources department and legal counsel before traveling outside the United States. This step ensures all parties know the expiration of the employee’s immigration status and visa stamp before making travel plans. It’s also best for these employees to be prepared for processing delays after completing their interview.
Businesses with foreign national employees planning to travel outside the country to obtain visa renewal interviews should consider whether the employees might be eligible for a waiver of the interview. This waiver could reduce their time waiting for a visa stamp.
During the past year, the state department has increased the eligibility for these interview waivers. In addition, the state department may allow interview waivers for non-immigrant visa applicants, such as first-time, L-1, and H-1B renewal applicants.
However, obtaining a waiver of the interview may not always be the quickest way to acquire a visa stamp. For example, getting a visa appointment can sometimes be faster than obtaining an interview waiver. In some cases, this is because many people are trying to receive an interview waiver. Though uncommon, applicants’ interview waivers can receive denials after waiting four to six weeks for processing. Because of this, it is best to look at each employee’s situation before applying for an interview waiver.
In some cases, your employee may qualify for an emergency appointment. For example, emergency appointments are available in certain situations, such as medical emergencies, urgent business travel, student and exchange visitors that want to return to work in a timely period, and funerals of family members. Foreign national employees who wish to obtain an emergency appointment must explain why they need the emergency appointment and show proof of the emergency. Additionally, every U.S. consulate has its own rules for emergency appointments. Therefore, it is best to check the consulate website for which you are trying to obtain an emergency appointment.
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