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Green and Spiegel - An Immigration Law Firm
Nov 3, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Operations and Service Standards at the U.S Embassy and Consulates in Canada

Tim Golden

COVID-19 Update: Operations and Service Standards at the U.S Embassy and Consulates in Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on operations and service standards at US consulates and embassies in Canada and around the world. In response to public health and safety guidelines issued by the Government of Canada, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in Canada suspended all routine consular services on Monday, March 23, 2020 with emergency services available for American citizens only. Recently, however, the embassy and consulates in Canada have announced the resumption of non-emergency U.S. citizen and non-immigrant visa services.

As of October 15, 2020, all posts have resumed full citizen services for passports and CRBA, with priority being given to emergency situations as determined on a case-by-case basis. Notary and U.S. citizenship renunciation services, however, are still restricted in Toronto and Montreal. Limited services for non-immigrant visas have resumed at all posts with the exception of Calgary and Montreal, which continue to offer emergency services only. The Montreal consulate has also resumed limited services for immigrant and fiancé visas.  As a result, this has somewhat relieved backlogs at the National Visa Center (NVC) that were significant prior to the pandemic.  NVC is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and is responsible for pre-processing of the visa appointment and document confirmation prior to the scheduling of the immigrant visa interview. 

The website for U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada reports increased wait times and substantial processing backlogs due to the pandemic. Wait times for appointments will also be longer than usual. Non-immigrant visa applicants who have paid the visa application processing fee and are still waiting to schedule a visa appointment will have the validity of their MRV fee payments extended to December 31, 2021.  The effects of the pandemic are reflected in monthly statistics compiled by the US Department of State (DOS) since the onset of consular service suspensions in March 2020. At Canadian posts, in August 2020, the total number of non-immigrant visas issued decreased by about 92% from the total issued six months earlier in March 2020.

As the resumption of visa processing is slowly building, two COVID-19 presidential proclamations (P.P. 10014 and 10052) remain in effect, suspending visa issuance for some immigrant visa types until December 31, 2020, as well as the issuance of three non-immigrant work visa types: L visas, and most H visas and J visas, and their dependents in each category. Fortunately, these proclamations contain exceptions including those whose entry would be in the “national interest.” On August 12, 2020, the DOS issued guidelines for requesting national interest exemption waivers. While not a comprehensive set of instructions, it provides helpful information as which visa applicants may qualify for an exemption, including those traveling as public health or healthcare professionals and applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the U.S. in the same position with the same employer and visa classification. The DOS guidelines instruct travelers who believe their entry falls into one of the enumerated categories or may otherwise be in the national interest to request a visa application appointment at the nearest embassy or consulate. Decisions will be made at the time of interview as to whether a traveler has established  their eligibility for a visa pursuant to an exception.

We are hopeful that the various Department of State services continue the slow reopening.  The experiences we have had are well managed.  Specific to Toronto’s E-2 unit, which is where all new E-2 companies are registered and initially established, we are seeing encouraging signs of a significant increase in available appointments.   We are optimistic, based on our conversations with the E-2 unit, recent experiences with individual cases since reopening, and basic logic, that the Consulate is keen to make appointments as streamlined as possible.  The E-2 unit in Toronto is making a concerted effort to identify any areas of doubt or insufficient documentation well in advance of the appointment via email correspondence.  It has been a tremendous benefit so far, as it reduces any need for paperwork the day of the appointment, and instead allows for the officers to focus on a more comprehensive discussion with the applicant(s).  The E-2 unit is unique and somewhat independent from the regular non-immigrant services, so it may not be something that will ultimately be applied to other non-immigrant visa classifications, but it is an encouraging and welcomed line of communication with the Consulate.

Overall, we are encouraged by this progress in consular service resumptions and will continue to monitor ongoing developments. If you wish to discuss your options for travel to the U.S., including visa applications and national interest exemptions, please contact our office.

 

 

March

April

May

June

July

August

Calgary

B1

5

0

0

0

1

0

Calgary

B1/B2

859

0

7

42

33

0

Calgary

C1

1

0

0

0

0

1

Calgary

C1/D

6

0

0

1

0

0

Calgary

E1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Calgary

E2

34

0

0

4

0

4

Calgary

E3

0

0

0

0

0

1

Calgary

E3D

2

0

0

0

0

0

Calgary

F1

3

1

0

0

0

18

Calgary

F2

0

0

0

0

0

1

Calgary

G4

0

0

0

0

0

1

Calgary

H1B

26

0

2

0

3

1

Calgary

H2A

1

0

6

2

0

0

Calgary

H4

12

0

2

0

1

6

Calgary

J1

4

0

3

4

1

0

Calgary

J2

3

0

4

0

3

2

Calgary

L1

16

1

0

0

0

0

Calgary

L2

13

1

0

0

3

0

Calgary

M1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Calgary

O1

1

0

0

0

0

1

Calgary

O3

2

0

0

0

0

1

Calgary

P1

2

0

0

0

0

0

Calgary

P2

0

0

0

0

0

1

Calgary

P3

3

0

0

0

0

0

Calgary

TD

4

0

1

0

0

0

Calgary

TN

2

0

0

0

0

0

Halifax

B1

1

0

1

1

3

4

Halifax

B1/B2

135

0

1

2

0

4

Halifax

B2

1

0

0

0

0

0

Halifax

C1/D

1

0

0

0

2

0

Halifax

F1

0

0

0

0

1

2

Halifax

H4

2

0

0

0

0

0

Halifax

J1

1

0

1

0

1

1

Halifax

J2

0

0

0

0

3

0

Halifax

L1

3

0

0

0

0

1

Halifax

L2

1

0

0

0

0

4

Halifax

M1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Halifax

TN

1

0

0

0

0

0

Montreal

B1

3

0

0

0

0

0

Montreal

B1/B2

763

0

0

0

1

5

Montreal

B2

23

0

0

0

0

2

Montreal

C1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Montreal

C1/D

3

0

1

0

0

0

Montreal

E1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Montreal

E2

7

0

0

0

0

0

Montreal

F1

8

0

0

0

0

13

Montreal

H1B

17

1

0

0

0

2

Montreal

H4

4

0

0

0

0

0

Montreal

J1

3

0

2

0

0

4

Montreal

J2

0

0

0

1

1

3

Montreal

K1

52

0

0

0

0

6

Montreal

K2

3

0

0

0

0

0

Montreal

O1

0

0

0

0

4

0

Montreal

P1

0

0

0

0

1

0

Ottawa

A1

7

0

3

9

18

13

Ottawa

A2

9

0

1

0

6

9

Ottawa

A3

1

0

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

B1

2

0

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

B1/B2

682

1

1

0

6

5

Ottawa

B2

1

0

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

C1/D

1

1

0

0

0

1

Ottawa

C1

0

0

0

0

1

1

Ottawa

C3

2

0

1

0

0

0

Ottawa

E1

4

1

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

E2

7

2

0

0

0

1

Ottawa

E3

1

0

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

E3D

1

0

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

F1

7

1

0

0

11

23

Ottawa

F2

1

0

0

0

1

0

Ottawa

G1

3

1

0

0

6

4

Ottawa

G2

6

0

0

1

0

0

Ottawa

G3

0

0

0

0

0

1

Ottawa

G4

22

7

3

18

31

30

Ottawa

G5

0

0

0

0

0

1

Ottawa

H1B

32

1

1

2

0

2

Ottawa

H1B1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

H4

15

2

0

0

0

1

Ottawa

J1

12

0

1

0

1

4

Ottawa

J2

7

0

0

0

0

0

Ottawa

L1

28

0

1

0

0

0

Ottawa

L2

37

0

1

0

0

0

Ottawa

NATO2

5

0

0

20

101

57

Quebec

B1/B2

222

5

11

3

8

3

Quebec

B2

1

0

0

0

0

0

Quebec

C1/D

3

0

0

0

0

0

Quebec

F1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Quebec

H1B

6

0

0

0

0

0

Quebec

J1

3

0

0

0

0

1

Quebec

L1

7

1

0

0

0

0

Quebec

L2

0

1

0

0

0

0

Quebec

T3

1

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

B1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

B1/B2

3,135

19

22

22

54

120

Toronto

B2

2

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

C1/D

4

1

2

0

3

2

Toronto

C3

0

0

2

0

0

0

Toronto

E1

24

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

E2

151

1

0

0

0

28

Toronto

E3

1

0

0

0

0

2

Toronto

E3D

2

0

0

0

0

1

Toronto

E3R

1

0

0

1

0

0

Toronto

F1

21

3

3

1

0

157

Toronto

F2

3

1

0

0

0

5

Toronto

G4

0

1

0

0

0

0

Toronto

H1B

92

3

1

1

4

4

Toronto

H2A

0

0

1

0

0

0

Toronto

H4

25

0

0

1

0

6

Toronto

J1

16

5

13

15

2

14

Toronto

J2

6

0

2

3

0

6

Toronto

L1

28

0

0

2

0

1

Toronto

L2

17

0

0

4

0

2

Toronto

M1

1

0

0

0

0

1

Toronto

O1

4

0

0

2

2

3

Toronto

O2

4

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

O3

0

0

0

2

0

5

Toronto

P1

2

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

P3

4

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

R1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

TD

6

0

0

0

0

0

Toronto

TN

3

0

0

1

0

0

Vancouver

B1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

B1/B2

1,706

5

14

30

35

30

Vancouver

C1

3

0

1

0

0

0

Vancouver

C1/D

2

1

1

0

0

0

Vancouver

E1

10

3

0

2

0

4

Vancouver

E2

22

18

1

3

0

26

Vancouver

E3

9

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

E3D

23

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

E3R

19

0

0

1

0

1

Vancouver

F1

57

0

0

0

29

50

Vancouver

F2

3

0

1

0

1

4

Vancouver

H1B

205

3

3

1

0

3

Vancouver

H1B1

2

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

H2A

1

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

H2B

2

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

H4

63

2

0

0

0

1

Vancouver

J1

26

0

2

0

5

6

Vancouver

J2

8

0

1

1

2

1

Vancouver

L1

56

0

0

0

0

2

Vancouver

L2

53

0

0

2

3

0

Vancouver

N8

2

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

O1

9

0

0

0

2

3

Vancouver

O2

6

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

O3

1

0

0

0

1

2

Vancouver

P2

3

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

R1

2

0

0

0

0

0

Vancouver

TD

3

0

1

0

0

0

Vancouver

TN

1

0

0

0

0

0

TOTALS:

 

9026

94

126

205

395

736

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