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DOS Clarifies US Embassy Consulate Immigrant Visa Priorities

DOS Clarifies US Embassy Consulate Immigrant Visa Priorities

As a result of the pandemic, US immigration processing has been severely disrupted. Embassies and consular posts in the US continue to operate at limited capacity due to ongoing public health measures such as social distancing, and overseas posts remain subject to varying restrictions on movement and gatherings as imposed by host countries.

Due to the ongoing challenges with processing services, the Department of State (DOS) has now shared insight into immigrant visa prioritization and the status of immigrant visa application processing.

The clarification notice details how US embassies and consulates are prioritizing immigrant visa applications and how application backlogs are being managed as processing expands to reach pre-COVID levels.

Notably, US posts that pre-COVID would process both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas are currently prioritizing immigrant visa applications, while still providing some nonimmigrant visa services.

Immigrant visa applications are being ‘triaged’ and prioritized according to a tiered system designed to support the guiding principle of the US Government’s immigration policy that family reunification is a priority.

Tier One

  • Age-out cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age
  • Immediate intercountry adoption visas
  • Special Immigrant Visas
  • Emergency cases as determined on a case-by-case basis.


Tier Two

  • Fiancé(e) visas
  • Immediate relative visas
  • Returning resident visas


Tier Three

  • SE Special Immigrant Visas for US government employees abroad
  • Family preference immigrant visas


Tier Four

  • All other immigrant visa categories including employment preference and diversity visas


Applications for foreign healthcare workers are also being prioritized and diversity visas continue to be processed.


Need assistance?

Application processing and service status vary by US post. Take advice if you are making an application, to understand current processing and waiting times for your visa category.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

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