Back to Top skip to main content
GandS U.S. Immigration Logo
Dec 22, 2020

State Department Reverts to Phase 1 COVID-19 Guidelines as Cases Surge

The U.S. State Department announced on Monday, December 21, that it was reverting back to Phase 1 Covid-19 guidelines for the National Capital Region, which include limiting travel to mission critical trips and putting restrictions on the size of gatherings, according to a department-wide memo from Brian Bulatao,  Under Secretary for Management. The plan is to return from Phase 2 guidelines to the more restrictive Phase 1 for almost a month.

Phase 1 only allows up to 40% of the workforce to work onsite, a major reduction from Phase 2 which allows up to 80% of employees to return to work onsite. Phase 2 also allowed for small group gatherings, while Phase 1 does not allow for congregating in groups any larger than 10 people when social distancing cannot be achieved.

The  move comes as the US government begins to receive and distribute a limited number of Covid-19 vaccine doses, and as the infections, hospitalizations and deaths around the country increase to record levels.  This move to Phase 1 limits official travel to “mission critical movements”  only and adds additional restrictions to visitor access, size of gatherings, and public facing Consular operations. Bulatao also stated that "Supervisors should continue to ensure that mission critical work requiring in-office presence within Phase 1 guidelines continues in order to support our global operations and serve the American people.” The State Department will return to Phase 2 for the National Capital Region on Monday, January 18, while it evaluates data and assesses local health conditions on an ongoing basis.

What does this mean for consular processing overseas?  With a reduction in staff, we will likely see a reduction in the availability of visa appointments and an increase number of cancellations of appointments previously scheduled.  Immigration practitioners have reported that clients both in the U.S. and overseas are experiencing this already, as they struggle to find a consulate abroad that is open and able to accommodate a visa appointment. The Bulatao memo confirms that the increase in COVID cases nationwide - and globally - has affected consular operations across the State Department’s operations globally.  Green and Spiegel continues to seek creative solutions for our clients faced with restrictions in visa interview appointments globally.  We anticipate that the State Department will continue to cancel appointments and/or limit availability, which will require careful planning and creative use of alternatives. 

Green and Spiegel will continue to monitor and report on any developments. Please contact us if you have any immediate need for assistance.

Recent Blogs

Jun 16, 2021

Return to International Travel?

On June 16th, 2021, reports from the European Union suggest that they will recommend that member countries remove restrictions on non-essential travel for United States citizens, with a formal vote on same expected to occur on Friday, June 18th. Learn more in this blog.

Apr 21, 2021

DHS Has Announced an Additional 22,000 Visas for the H-2B Visa Program

After considerable pressure from small business owners and H-2B industry supporters, DHS has agreed to release an additional 22,000 H-2B visas, with 6,000 of those visas being earmarked for workers from Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). According to DHS, employers wishing to obtain workers through this visa release will have to conduct additional advertising, and explain how their businesses will suffer without these workers. Learn more in this blog.

Apr 13, 2021

F-1 Students Seeking Optional Practical Training Can Now File Form I-765 Online

On April 12. 2021 USCIS announced that F-1 students can now file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization online when applying for Pre-Completion OPT, Post-Completion OPT, or a 24-month OPT STEM extension. Learn more in this blog.