As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. consulates abroad, including in Europe, Australia, South Asia and South America, have closed — often with little or no advance notice. Many clients who had appointments within the next four weeks have received emails from the consulates canceling those appointments. The U.S. consulates in the following countries are closed until further notice:
- United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
- Czech Republic
- Saudi Arabia
- Dominican Republic
Also, the U.S. Consulate in Toronto has started canceling routine nonimmigration visa appointments.
Due to the fluid situation, there may be others that have already closed by the time you read this, and still others that will close in the future. You may check each consulate’s visa appointment service website (https://ustraveldocs.com) or embassy website (https://www.usembassy.gov/) to get the latest status of a particular post.
The following are general thoughts to consider regarding people in need of renewals, but please call our lawyers — who are working either remotely or from Kramer Levin’s offices — to discuss specific cases.
For cases where we have already sent you documents for the individual to use in applying for another E-3 visa abroad but the person has not left the United States OR for cases we are preparing for you now or in the near future: Please call the lawyer you worked with or are currently working with to decide on the course of action. This will likely include, where possible, changing the strategy and filing the E-3 with USCIS in the United States. One important issue that we will have to discuss with you is the possible need of an experiential evaluation, as most Australian bachelor’s degrees are not by themselves the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. Moreover, these cases will receive much greater scrutiny from USCIS than they would have otherwise received had they been filed at a U.S. consulate abroad.
Blanket L Renewals
For cases where we have already sent you papers for the individual to use in applying for another Blanket L-1 visa (and I-129S) abroad but the person has not left the United States OR for cases we are preparing for you now or in the near future: If you have any employees in this situation, please call the lawyer you worked with or are currently working with to discuss changing course and preparing an extension petition to be filed with USCIS. Without the option of filing through the consulates, this will likely be the only option (other than having an individual leave the United States and work from abroad). Historically, filing through U.S. consular posts is the preferred method of extending Blanket L status, as the U.S. consulates’ adjudications are more lenient than USCIS’ (particularly on essential function manager cases, as well as cases where the individual manages a small team).
Individuals in a work-authorized status (e.g., H-1B, L-1, E-1, E-2) whose I-94s and I-797 petition approvals have already been extended by USCIS but who have expiring or expired visas
If an individual’s status document (I-94) and approval notice (I-797) have been extended but his or her travel document (visa page in the passport) is expiring, the individual should NOT leave the United States, as he or she is eligible to continue to live and work for you in the United States through the expiration of the I-94 and I-797. If the individual leaves the United States to obtain the visa, he or she may be stuck abroad. We strongly recommend that you contact the lawyer you worked with on any of these cases to confirm that the individual should not travel.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.