January 24, 2023
LawQuest | US Immigration Alerts | Additional NI Visa Appointments for First Time Applicants, USCIS implementation of Prem Proc Final Stage & Adjudication of I-539 & I-765 applications together
The US Embassy and Consulates in India Introduce More Visa Appointments
There is finally some good news for visa applicants seeking a visa for the first time or those that do not qualify for Dropbox applications. The United States Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad (collectively known as Mission India) will now be open for regular consular (including visa) operations on certain Saturdays to accommodate applicants who need in-person visa interviews. These additional working days are likely to run through the next few months.
Additionally, to address the significant post-pandemic backlog in visa processing Mission India has also implemented the following and we are seeing reduced wait times as a result:
- Remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous U.S. visas.
- Temporary Consular Officers from Washington and other Embassies to arrive in India to increase processing capacity between January and March 2023.
- Increasing the number of Consular Officers permanently assigned to the Embassy and Consulates in India.
- Released more than 250,000 additional B1/B2 appointments and continue to open more slots in the coming few months.
- U.S. Consulate, Mumbai also extended its weekday operating hours to manage additional appointments.
By this summer, the U.S. Mission in India is expected to be fully staffed and processing visas at levels from prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This will result in a huge relief for visa applicants who have been waiting for several months for visa appointments. We continue to monitor the situation and will provide further updates as they become available.
USCIS Extends Premium Processing to Additional Categories
The USCIS extends premium processing for newly filed applications under EB-1 and EB-2 petitions. In the earlier phase, this service was only available to already filed I-140 petitions for managers and executives or for those filed for members of Professions holding an Advanced Degree or an Alien of Exceptional Ability. This new phase will come into effect on January 30, 2023.
Further, premium processing will shortly be extended to certain F-1 seeking OPT and STEM OPT extensions and for those applicants who file I-539 Application to Extend/Change their non-immigrant status. This will most likely go into effect in February 2023 after the USCIS makes its final announcement.
Adjudication of L-2 and H-4 Spouse/Dependent Applications Along with the Primary Beneficiary’s Petition
On Friday January 20, 2023, the U.S. government signed off on a settlement of a lawsuit, agreeing to again adjudicate I-539 (extension or change of status applications) and I-765 (work authorization) for H-4 and L-2 dependents, together with the primary beneficiary’s I-129 when these forms are filed together. It is important to note that if the forms are not filed together, the USCIS is not required to adjudicate them together. This arrangement will take effect on January 25, 2023 and will greatly benefit new applicants, especially when the primary beneficiary’s I-129 petition is filed for premium processing.