American Immigration Lawyer's Association - DOS liaison committee conducted a meeting with the Department of State on January 20, 2022. Some key points from this meeting:
1. DOS continues to acknowledge the extensive backlog that exists at various consular posts across the world as a result of Covid-19. The new DOS Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Rena Bitter is option to options proposed by AILA to reduce the backlog, including stateside visa processing and remote support for consular posts. DOS has stated that nothing is off the table. Moreover, DOS is in the process of hiring new foreign service officers, but they will not be ready to serve until the second half of 2022 or somewhere in the beginning of FY 2023. DOS indicates that hiring new officers will reduce appointment wait times.
- The administration has had a year, and still there hasn't been any progress on this front. AILA has suggested all sorts of remedies to reduce the visa backlog, but yet the administration has not done much to alleviate the stress on parents, spouses, children, siblings. Long lines exist and DOS is committed to eliminating backlogs, but actions speak louder than words. If hiring is going to reduce appointment wait times, why wasn't action taken on this earlier.
2. Afghan Issues
Consular Choice - DOS confirmed that Special Immigrant Visa applicants and Nonimmigrant Visa applicants can apply to any post to which they can travel or have permission to travel. DOS is exploring options to expedite Afghan cases, including the use of remote processing.
Afghan F/J issues - AILA has shared reports that consular posts have been canceling F and J nonimmigrant interviews for Afghans without explanation and without a new date for an interview. DOS seems to attribute this to issues where the Afghan national cannot leave humanitarian compounds of the host country. DOS states that they cannot assist visa applicants in getting out of these humanitarian compounds as there are issues to be dealt with the host country.
Passport Issues - AILA has raised the issue of whether the passport requirement for humanitarian parole and other Afghani visa applications, where the requirement for the passport can be waived. DOS confirmed that they cannot do a blanket passport waiver.
- With the Taliban in charge, clients have reported that extreme difficulty that they have had to go through to get a passport. Some have been successful while other have not.
Alternate Embassy/Consulate for immigrant visas - Since Afghanistan has not been defined as a country whose nationals are considered homeless, DOS has not designated an official consular post to handle thier cases. DOS has confirmed that Afghans who are applicants for immigrant visas can travel to any consular post that they can travel to for immigrant visa processing.
3. DOS was questioned by AILA as to how many immigrant visa applications exist at various consular posts that were from the outset of the pandemic that remain unadjudicated. DOS could not provide an answer to AILA.
- This is what I want to know. We need to know that progress is being made. If it isn't, then something has to change.