As COVID-19 cases continue to impact communities around the world, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services are still feeling the impact of the initial shutdown in 2020. Certain government agencies and services were disrupted for months after infections exploded here and in other countries – leading to a historic backlog of immigrant visa applications.
There are several hundred thousand immigrant visa applications stuck at the National Visa Center, leaving many families in limbo and resulting in tens of thousands of green cards being wasted in 2021. Now, officials are asking for help and pushing applicants to opt for in-person interviews here in the United States.
Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing
This is a topic we touched on previously, but the issue is coming more into focus as the need to clear out the backlog continues. When you apply for an immigrant visa, one of the final steps in the process is an interview that can either take place in the United States or in your home country.
If you interview in the United States, it is referred to as an Adjustment of Status, but if you interview in your home country it is referred to as Consular Processing. The largest backlog relates to people opting for overseas interviews as opposed to doing so in the United States.
Officials can process your application and move quickly if you are able to do the interview in the US. It is important to note you must be in the country legally in order to opt for an Adjustment of Status.
Backlog Could Take Years to Clear
This historic backlog will not get fixed overnight. Even if thousands of applicants are able to opt for the Adjustment of Status, there will still be a mountain of applications to work through. As of July 2022, there are more than 400,000 international applicants still waiting for their Consular Processing interview to be scheduled.
It is likely this backlog will take years to recover from as officials can only complete so many interviews per month and more applicants will be added to the pile. The problem will only grow if USCIS officials are not able to get help from those who can legally do their interviews domestically.
Understand Potential Violations
If you do your interview in the United States, then your application can move quickly. However, if you are found to be in violation of your status, such overstaying your status or working illegally, you could have your application declined or worse.
You can legally qualify for an in-person interview in the US even with minor violations if your green card is being sponsored by an employer thanks to Section 245(k) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section forgives the following brief status violations:
- Failed to maintain legal status for no more than 180 days while living in the US
- Worked illegally in the US for no more than 180 days
- Otherwise violated the terms and conditions of your immigrant status for no more than 180 days
You need to be consistent with your legal status and keep up with any changes. The government is not going to tell you what’s changing as they expect that you’ll stay up-to-date on any changes as they occur. You should never assume that you will have the same rights tomorrow that you do today.
At Valvo & Associates, we are constantly keeping up with immigration law and can help you maintain, adjust, protect, or extend your status. We serve, lead, and support clients with our unmatched expertise in immigration law. Contact our team to make sure your status is not lost or left on the long list of backlogged appointments.