Consular Processing

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New Pilot Program Assessment Letter for CDJ

The DOS has recently announced that it will start a pilot program involving persons applying for an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulates in Cd. Juarez, Mexico (CDJ) and Montreal, Canada.  The National Visa Center will be conducting its standard review of the forms and documents submitted by the applicant, including a review of the affidavit of support, civil documents, and police certificates.  If a case file is incomplete or lacks proper documentation, the NVC will send a checklist to the petitioner or designated agent indicating what changes are needed.  But after two reviews by the NVC, the agency will then forward the file to the consulate and schedule an interview, even if it still contains errors or omissions.  The NVC will then send the applicant an “assessment” letter evaluating the documentation that was submitted. It is the intention of the DOS that the applicant will use the assessment letter as a way to gauge whether problems may arise at the consular interview.  If the assessment letter indicates a document may be lacking, the applicant may wish to bring extra documentation or a new affidavit of support to the consular official.

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Webinar: Overseas Refugee Processing Program for Central American Minors

On December 1, 2014, the Department of State launched a new in-country refugee and parole program for children residing in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Watch a free webinar to learn more about the process permitting certain parents in the United States to request that their children be admitted to the United States as refugees or granted parole. What are the eligibility requirements for a parent to apply? Which Central American children will be eligible? How does the process work? Most importantly, what can legal service providers do to educate communities about the program, identify those who might be eligible, and refer them to refugee resettlement agencies to complete their applications.

 Held January 13, 2015

Presenters for this webinar were Jen Riddle and Kristina Karpinski, CLINIC Attorneys, and Jeffrey Hawks, Associate Director for Processing Operations, USCCB.

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CLINIC Newsletter - November 2014 - VOL. XVIII No. 11

 In this issue…                       

BIA Issues Three Decisions on Recognition and Accreditation

Haitian Family Reunification Program To Be Implemented in 2015

News From the Catholic Network

Update from Ciudad Juarez  

USCIS Updates DACA FAQs

Immigration Updates

Law and Practice Feature

Question Corner

Technical Assistance and Trainings

Resources

Position Openings

                                                                                

Visa Bulletin                                                                                                                                                             

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Update from Ciudad Juarez

By Susan Schreiber

CLINIC held its annual two-day family-based immigration law conference in El Paso, Texas on November 12-13, 2014.  In the afternoon of the second day, representatives from the consulate and USCIS spoke and answered participants’ questions.  On an optional third day, participants toured the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez.  The following is a summary of updated information from the conference and the tour.

 

The Consulate and How to Contact Officers

Legal inquiries should be made on the special inquiry form located at ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/feedback-form.html.  Fill out the form completely, include the IV case number (CDJ or MEP), use only the form to correspond, and do not include any attachments unless requested.

 

The USCIS Office

Mexico is in the Latin American and Caribbean District of the USCIS.  It has seven offices within that region.  It processes or investigates the following forms I-130, I-360, I-407, I-601 and I-212, I-730, and U/T visas (fingerprints only).  The office has an information window at the consulate.  To contact the office, send an e-mail to cdj.uscis@uscis.dhs.gov.

 

Information provided during the Q and A

Applicants may make any relevant claim related to why they are not inadmissible.  This includes persons potentially inadmissible for making a false claim of citizenship when they were minors.

The consulate makes no assumption that family members traveling together and entering the United States illegally are smuggling each other.  Officers try to determine the underlying facts before making a determination of 212(a)(6)(B) inadmissibility.  Tattoos are revealed almost entirely through the medical exam. Panel physicians are required to note any marks on applicant’s body, including tattoos.  The officer will make no assumption that an applicant is a member of a gang just due to wearing a tattoo.  The consulate follows an internal process: the information becomes available through the medical exam, the officer will ask the applicant questions regarding the tattoos, if officer believes further investigation is necessary, will refer t to fraud-prevention unit, which usually involves conducting another interview while applicant.

In order to take advantage of the CSPA’s opt-out provision, the applicant need only write a simple letter.  The second preference F-2B category is currently more favorable than the first preference for all nationalities except the Philippines.   So when the applicant’s petitioner naturalizes, the beneficiary will need to opt out of that automatic conversion. This opt-out benefit is also available to the unmarried children under 21 in the F-2A category who have derivative children.  They will automatically convert to the immediate relative category when their petitioner naturalizes unless they opt out.  They might want to opt out so that they can immigrate in the F-2A category with their derivative child.

If the principal beneficiary has received an immigrant visa at the consulate, has entered the United States as an LPR, and the derivative children or spouse want to immigrate, they should just contact the consulate’s Call Center and ask to schedule an interview.  The consulate will allow them to pay the immigrant visa fee and access the forms. They do not need to go through the National Visa Center.

Similarly, contact CDJ’s Call Center or send an email to re-activate a case that is still pending.   The consulate will re-schedule an interview using its local rescheduling system (SWIT)   In some cases, the applicant may not need to return for a second interview, but that would only be if the applicant’s first interview was within one year.  If it has been one year, the applicant would need to return to at least take an oath.

The consulate runs a report every day to determine which cases should be terminated for under section 203(g) due to failure to attend an interview or take action within one year.  The data base indicates when it has been longer than 12 months from the last communication.

During  FY 2014,  95 percent of applicants who had received provisional approval of their I-601A waiver were granted an immigrant visa.  Only about 400 cases out of 9,000 were denied based on discovery of another ground of inadmissibility, such as 212(a)(9)(C) or smuggling.

Applicants who are found inadmissible due to a health-related ground are advised as to when they may re-apply after “remission.”  In those cases, the applicant will first obtain new medical exam results and then attend a new interview.  The applicant may not need a second interview.

 

Tour of Medical Clinic

A new medical clinic recently opened in Ciudad Juarez, so that there are now three sites providing medical exam services.  Each clinic sees immigrant visa applicants on a walk-in basis between 6 and 11 a.m. from Monday through Friday, excluding Mexican holidays. 

The consulate sets the fees for all medical exams, and they are the same at each clinic.  These fees – $220.40 for adults, and $156.40 for children 14 and under – cover all services except vaccinations. 

In a tour of the Clinica Medica Internacional, clinic director Dr. Roberto Assael reviewed the various anti-fraud measures employed during the medical exam.  First, visa applicants appearing for a medical exam must show their current passports and are assigned a bar code, which is checked at each station in the exam process.  In addition, the clinic intake process includes taking a photo of the applicant and an index fingerprint, which is then checked by the medical staff conducting each procedure of the medical exam.  In the event that an applicant is asked to provide a urine sample, a clinic employee of the same gender as the applicant observes the applicant providing the sample through a one-way mirror.  These measures are taken to make sure that the visa applicant is the individual being examined or tested at all stages of the medical exam.

At the Clinica Medica Internacional, applicants waiting to be seen are seated in a large waiting room with four wall-mounted screens running a continuous video with information about the medical exam process.  A clinic staff person also circulates the room to answer questions about the medical examination and to caution applicants to not talk to coyotes – the individuals outside the clinic or consulate trying to persuade applicants to pay for services they don't need.  A second building has just been constructed to provide waiting room space for up to 1,000 individuals, so that the many family members who often accompany visa applicants will have an indoor space to wait. This new waiting area also includes computers and printers available for those receiving clinic services.

Men and women are examined in separate areas, with children typically accompanying their mothers to the women's examination area.  Before the exam, applicants are given gowns and told what clothing to remove, but no invasive procedures are included in the medical exam.  Ultra-violet lights present in the exam room are used to check for invisible tattoos. 

Visa applicants ages 15 and older are given an x-ray to screen for tuberculosis.  A chest x-ray is mandatory, even for pregnant women, because the protective covering used during the procedure protects against any exposure to radiation.  If other problems are detected from the x-ray, e.g. a nodule indicative of cancer, the applicant will be advised of this information and counseled to consult with a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.  In the event of a diagnosis of active tuberculosis, in-patient treatment is provided at no cost to the applicant.

In many instances, the clinic will not accept vaccination records from Mexico. According to Dr. Assael, these records are often fraudulent on their face because it is obvious that a multi-year history of vaccinations was noted on a single occasion.  For U.S. vaccinations, the clinic will accept a doctor’s letter detailing the vaccinations provided, as long as the letter includes a phone number for contacting the doctor for verification.

Visa applicants suspected of being inadmissible for substance abuse are referred to the psychologist for further screening. They may also be asked to provide a urine sample for drug screening.  According to Dr. Assael, this is a frequent occurrence, and will be indicated where the applicant admits prior drug use or a criminal record. A determination of inadmissibility for being a drug abuser or for having a medical or physical disorder with associated harmful behavior is based on the CDC diagnostic criteria contained in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition).  In the event that a visa applicant reveals information to the consular officer about drug use or a DUI that wasn't mentioned during the medical examination, the applicant will be required to return to the clinic to be interviewed by the psychologist.  In that circumstance, the applicant will pay an additional fee to speak with the psychologist.

 

Tour of the Application Support Center

All immigrant visa applicants must schedule an appointment with an Application Support Center (ASC) for biometrics and a photo before the consular interview.  In addition to the ASC located in the plaza adjacent to the consulate, there are 13 other ASC centers in Mexico, including one in every city in which there is a U.S. consulate.

Applicants should make their ASC appointment between one and seven days prior to the consular interview.  At the appointment, each applicant needs to present his or her passport, NVC appointment letter, and printed DS-260 confirmation page.  At the ASC adjacent to the consulate, the entire ASC appointment is usually completed within 8-10 minutes.  If an applicant schedules his or her consular appointment through the ASC, the applicant should print out the appointment letter and also bring a copy of any consulate correspondence directing the applicant to make an appointment.  Children under 7 years old do not have to appear at the ASC if a photo of the child is provided.

 

Tour of the Consulate

Visa applicants should check in at the waiting room adjacent to the consulate no more than 30 minutes before the designated appointment time.  At the time of the scheduled appointment, applicants are escorted to the consulate from the waiting room and go through security.  Items that are not permitted on the consulate grounds may be left in lockers available in the waiting room.

Each applicant receives a case number as he or she is admitted to the consulate, and the number is used by the consulate to track the time it takes to complete the appointment.  Once inside the consulate, each applicant appears before a document screener who makes sure that all required documents are in order, and then the applicant moves on to be interviewed by a consular officer who determines eligibility for the immigrant visa. Until recently, case numbers were projected on mounted screens to notify applicants about when to approach various windows for document screening and interview, but the consulate is no longer using that method.  Instead, the consulate is now employs a "snake system," and applicants are directed to wait in short lines in each section by staff monitoring the order of arrival of applicants.  This change was undertaken to make the document review and interview processes more efficient, by ensuring that each employee or officer move on to the next case as soon as an interview is completed.

Generally, only applicants may enter the consulate; family members may accompany applicants only when there is a specific need to do so. This may be appropriate, for example, when an elderly or disabled visa applicant needs assistance or an applicant is accompanied by young children and needs an additional caretaker.  Family groups are generally scheduled for interview together.  If this has not happened, an applicant may contact the Call Center to request that the appointment time be changed so that the family group can appear together.

The consulate has not been using the outdoor waiting areas because there is no need to do so,  given a lower volume of visa applicants.  Currently, most applicants complete the appointment in under two hours.  After visa approval, it can take one to two weeks for the visa to be issued.  If expedite processing is warranted, the applicant may request this at the time of document collection and review.

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U.S. Department of State Updates Foreign Affairs Manual Guidance

By Ilissa Mira, Training and Legal Support Attorney

The Office of Visa Services (Visa Office) within the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs issues advisory opinions in nonimmigrant and immigrant visa cases adjudicated at U.S. consulates.  Advocates and applicants may send email inquiries to LegalNet@state.gov to request case-specific responses regarding the interpretation or application of immigration law in visa cases.  On April 23, 2014 and May 7, 2014, DOS updated the Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM Appendix E, 800, to include information on LegalNet’s purpose, scope and inquiry processing. The highlights of this new FAM section are summarized below. 

 

Purpose and Scope of LegalNet

The new FAM guidance sets forth the scope of inquiries that LegalNet will accept for review.  According to the FAM, LegalNet provides substantive responses only to the following categories of inquiries:

  • Legal questions about a specific case when the applicant or representative has attempted to contact the consular post at least twice without receiving a final response, and where 30 days have passed since the second inquiry (unless action is required sooner to avert significant harm to the applicant)
  • Legal questions about a specific case in which the applicant or representative has received a final response from post, but believes it to be wrong as a matter of law
  • Legal questions about specific cases involving T visas, U visas, Diversity visas, or adoption visas, and
  • Legal questions about specific cases involving the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The new guidance describes inquiries to which LegalNet will not provide substantive responses, including:

  • Questions from anyone other than an applicant or representative of record
  • Requests to review factual determinations made by U.S. consular officers
  • Requests for case status updates
  • Questions that are general, speculative, or hypothetical in nature
  • Legal questions in cases where the consular officer has not yet reached a final determination of the applicant’s eligibility for a visa (except in T, U, diversity and adoption visa cases, and CSPA and VAWA cases)
  • Request for explanations of visa revocations or cancellations, and
  • Request regarding a case that is still being processed at the National Visa Center.

 

Requirements for LegalNet Inquiries

Inquiries submitted to LegalNet should refer to only one case per email.  Additionally, the subject line of the email should include: 1) the applicant’s full name; 2) the post processing the case; 3) the National Visa Center case number for immigrant visa cases; 4) the applicant’s passport number and/or USCIS receipt number for nonimmigrant visa cases; and 5) the citation to the relevant statute or regulation at issue.

The body of the email should include the principal applicant’s full name as it appears in the applicant’s passport, the applicant’s date of birth and the applicant’s pace of birth, as well as the location of the pending or denied visa application, the applicant’s visa classification, and any refusal code.

Representatives should attach a signed G-28 and copies of all previous correspondence with the post.

 

Processing LegalNet Requests

LegalNet will provide notice that the inquiry was received and is being processed within seven days of receipt. The timeframe for substantive responses depends on the complexity of the matter and availability of essential information.  However, if no substantive response from LegalNet is received within 30 days, send a follow-up email to LegalNet.       

 

When to Use LegalNet

Consular officers have absolute authority to issue or refuse visas.  However, an advocate may seek an advisory opinion on legal issues that he or she believes were decided in error.   A favorable advisory opinion may persuade a consular officer to rescind a visa refusal.

Consider using LegalNet when you are unable to resolve a disputed legal issue with the consulate and its supervisory channels.  This might include cases where a consular officer misapplies the law and finds an applicant inadmissible.  For example, advocates have sought advisory opinions on erroneous determinations that a client engaged in smuggling or has a disqualifying conviction.  In one case, an advocate sought review of a visa refusal based on aiding and abetting smuggling under INA § 212(a)(6)(E)(i).  At a young age, the applicant had entered the U.S. with his uncle, cousins, and the help of a paid coyote.  Each person paid their own share of the fee.  While the facts were not disputed, the advocate argued that it was a misapplication of law to conclude that his client had smuggled the relatives who had accompanied him.  After receiving a favorable advisory opinion, the applicant was eventually issued a visa.

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NVC Update on Consular Processing and Latest News from U.S. Consulate in CDJ

Price: $25.00

Nearly all immigrant visa applicants must now submit the DS-260 Online Immigrant Visa Application and those processing at select  consulates and embassies must also submit  documents electronically to the National Visa Center (NVC).  In the near future,  all applicants will be required to submit the required  forms and documents  electronically.   Join CLINIC Attorneys  Kristina Karpinski, Susan Schreiber and Charles Wheeler as they speak with NVC Director Kimberly Kelly about these initiatives and other issues related to consular processing including NVC's role in implementation of the provisional waivers program.  The webinar will also include an update on processing at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico following presentations by DOS and USCIS officials at CLINIC 's family-based immigration law conference in El Paso.

 

Held: 12/11/13

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Law and Practice Feature: Update from Ciudad Juarez

By Susan Schreiber

 

CLINIC conducted its fifteenth annual family-based immigration law conference in El Paso on November 12-14, followed by a tour of the US consulate in Ciudad Juarez (CDJ) on November 15.  Justin Williamson, Deputy Immigrant Visa (IV) Chief, U.S. Consulate, CDJ, gave a presentation and answered questions from participants.  The following unofficial minutes represent some of the highlights of Mr. Williamson’s presentation. 

Overview of Workload

Consular officers are responsible for reviewing approximately 500 IV applications per day.  The consulate adjudicated 91,000 IV applications in FY 2013, which is below normal levels.  In FY 2012 the consulate adjudicated 123,000 IV applications, which represents a 35 percent decrease for 2013.  The reasons for the decrease include implementation of the provisional waiver program, expectations about comprehensive immigration reform, and the state of the economy in both the United States and Mexico. Mr. Williamson expects the number of applications to increase in 2014.

Tips for the Visa Applicant

Make sure your client only deals with staff from the Application Support Center (ASC), medical clinic, or officials inside the consular building.  No consular personnel are ever located outside the consulate. People will approach your client in the vicinity of the clinic or the consulate trying to offer advice.  These people are all scammers trying to take advantage of your client.  They will offer to sell fake appointment letters and other documents, to provide assistance with transportation or expedited processing, and will charge outrageous application assistance or photo fees.  Scammers will often wear badges and present themselves as consular officials to dupe the applicants.  Advise your client to stay in a legitimate hotel near the consulate rather than at a guest house; guest house owners have been known to take the documents from clients and hold them until they pay a fee. If there are questions regarding procedures, there are two information windows available at the consulate.

Review the ASC procedures fully before traveling to the consulate for the appointment, or even before the appointment is made.  Each U.S. consular post in Mexico has extensive detailed information on the ASC process that can help your client avoid any surprises when you arrive. Double check to make sure you have your client's correct contact information while in Mexico so you can communicate with each other. Have clients come to the consular interview prepared.  Review the immigrant visa pages at the CDJ website: http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/immigrant_visas.html. Discuss all potential inadmissibility grounds with your client (e.g., unlawful presence, convictions, deportations) so you can advise him or her of the possible options.  If your client has a criminal conviction, the applicant should bring in arrest reports and/or court records. Applicants should be counseled to be forthcoming with all of this information at the interview to set proper expectations of waiver eligibility or timing of potential visa issuance.

Applicants also need to be forthcoming with the panel physician. If the consulate discovers something during the interview – a DUI, drug arrest – that the applicant did not reveal to the doctor, the consular official will send the applicant back for a new medical exam, thus delaying the process.  The panel physicians record moles, scars, and tattoos.  If the consulate makes a finding of gang membership, it will be based on more than just the presence of tattoos.  All of these cases are sent to Headquarters in Washington, DC for a final determination. There is a very low refusal rate and very strict standard for this ground of inadmissibility.

Applicants who have been in the United States or attempted to enter the United States should have a complete written timeline of all entries and exits to facilitate the interview. This information should be consistent with what was stated on the DS-260. Include when they entered the United States, where, how, how many times, how long they stayed, how old were they, when they left, how they left, whether they were deported or voluntarily removed, and when they returned.  If the consular officer has questions on the timeline and the applicant is not clear or forthcoming, the officer will issue a request for more documentation or information and will refuse the applicant pursuant to section 221(g).  Applicants should consider bringing documents, such as rent receipts, to verify that they were living in Mexico on a given date.

Review the Affidavit of Support carefully to ensure that it matches the income tax returns and that all required documents are attached. Inadequate financial support is the most common reason a case is refused pursuant to 221(g). Make sure the applicant’s joint sponsors are not sponsoring multiple people and failing to disclose this.

Applicants should come with original documents to present to the consulate (birth, death, marriage, adoption, etc.).  Lack of documents is often a source for the delay in visa issuance.  It is always a good idea to bring copies of documents that have already been submitted, as well as current tax returns.  The applicant can request return of the original documents if he or she provides a duplicate copy and the officer verifies and stamps it as a copy.

Set reasonable expectations for how long it will take your client to complete the process and for the consulate to issue the immigrant visa. Generally, applicants with no small children should plan on the process taking at least three days, while applicants with small children (who will need the PPD test results) should plan on it taking at least five days.  Delayed medical results due to the need for additional testing, such as TB, can cause a delay. Generally, allow one day for taking the fingerprints by the ASC, another day for the medical exam, and then a third day for IV visa interview.  The applicant designates a DHL location for receipt of the visa package, and that location may determine how long it takes to receive the visa.  It is possible to be in and out of the consulate on the day of the interview in less than an hour, though sometimes it might take up to four hours. The consulate very rarely does same-day visa issuance, but it may expedite issuance if it is justified, like a medical emergency.  After the interview, it could take between two days to a week to receive the visa packet, depending on how long it takes to arrive at the designated DHL location.

Use the CDJ inquiry form to communicate with the consulate.  That is on the CDJ website at http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/feedback-form.html.  Complete the form making sure to include the immigrant visa case number, which starts with either CDJ or MEP.  Use only the form to correspond with CDJ unless otherwise instructed. Inquiries that are not received on the form can get buried.  Don’t attach anything unless requested. If you have documents you want to send CDJ, just state that you have documents in support of the case and the consulate will request them if they need them.  Don’t pose as the visa applicant; the consulate has received legal inquiries where the body of the inquiry states the person is the applicant but the email is from an attorney.  Always include the name of the attorney or representative that is on the G-28 in the body of the inquiry.  If you have a CSPA concern and you want to confirm eligibility, use the legal inquiry form to confirm that the consulate agrees that your client is eligible.  If you need to call the consulate, use these phone numbers:  from the U.S.: 703-439-2313; from Mexico: 656-325-6300.  If sending by regular mail: American Consulate General, P. O. Box 10545, El Paso, TX 79995.  E-mail:  cdjpublic@state.gov.

Last year 246 applicants for IVs were determined to be U.S. citizens.  An estimated 12 percent of the population in Cd. Juarez is U.S. citizens.   So question your client for possible acquired citizenship before applying for an immigrant visa.

The consulate is starting to adjudicate IV applications from persons with approved I-601A waivers.  The consulate adjudicated about 100 applications before November, about 200 this month, and is scheduled to adjudicate about 400 in December.  Less than five percent of those with approved I-601A approvals have been found inadmissible for other grounds.  When an applicant is found inadmissible for another ground of inadmissibility, it is after a team of officers has reviewed the case and verified the analysis.  Advise all applicants with approved I-601A’s to remind the adjudicator that the waiver has been approved.  Of the 22,634 I-601A’s that have been filed, 16, 902 are designated as processing at CDJ. 

If an immigrant visa is refused, and the applicant takes more than a year to resolve the issue, then the applicants will need to provide a new medical report and re-pay the IV fees.

Tour of the Consulate

Approximately 75 participants in the family-based immigration conference visited the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez on November 15.  Our tour took us through all the steps an IV applicant follows in the days preceding the appointment, including visits to the following: Servicios Medicos, one of two medical clinics that serve visa applicants at CDJ; the Applicant Support Center (ASC), where applicants come for their photos and biometrics; and the "Sala de Espera" or waiting room, where all visa applicants must report before appearing at the consulate for their visa appointment.  We also toured the consulate to see where applicants enter the facility, wait to be called for their appointments, submit their passports and civil documents, and get interviewed by a consular officer.  Some highlights from the tour are listed below.

Medical Clinic

The Servicios Medicos clinic is located about a block away from the consulate entrance and adjacent to the other medical clinic for visa applicants.  Visa applicants do not need an appointment for their medical examinations, but they do need an appointment letter and their passports to enter the facility.  Note that no medical clinic staff work outside the clinic, so clients should be advised that anyone approaching them outside the clinic who is offering services related to the medical exam is necessarily an imposter.  After entering the clinic, visa applicants are photographed and meet with data entry personnel who record basic identification information into their computer files. Applicants are then provided with a bracelet with an identifying bar code, which is scanned to confirm the applicant's identity at each stage of the medical exam.  The subsequent exam, which typically takes about an hour and a half, includes an x-ray for those visa applicants age 15 or over, or a TB skin test for younger applicants; a blood draw to screen for syphilis and, at times, for controlled substances and pregnancy; a physical examination; and, where applicable, required vaccinations.  Applicants will need to disrobe for the physical examination, and if a parent and child are each reporting for a medical exam, the parent will be examined first in order to be with the child at his or her physical exam. Applicants with any kind of chronic medical condition should be advised to bring medical records and a list of medications they are taking to show to the examining physician.  The medical report will note any applicant tattoos, as well as scars, but they are not photographed.  Presently, all the Servicios Medicos doctors performing physical examinations are women, and not all are bilingual.

In the first instance, issues related to use of controlled substances and alcohol use, including DUIs, are assessed through the consultation with the doctor performing the physical examination.  Advocates may want to caution any visa applicants who speak only English to request an examination by an English-speaking doctor to avoid any miscommunication during the physical examination.  Applicants who are viewed as potentially inadmissible based on their disclosures to the examining physician will be referred to the clinic psychologist for a further consultation and may also have to submit to urinalysis.  In the event of a finding of inadmissibility due to drug abuse or a disorder with associated harmful behavior (e.g. as a consequence of a DUI history), the applicant needs a year of remission in order to overcome inadmissibility.  Applicants need to demonstrate complete abstinence from the illegal drug use or alcohol abuse that triggered the inadmissibility finding to satisfactorily establish remission.  The clinic psychologist recommended that applicants participate in some kind of rehabilitation program during this period and, in the case of drug use, also have monthly urine tests taken to show they remained drug-free.

Before departing the clinic, applicants are told when to report back for exam results.  At the Servicios Medicos clinic, where exams are performed between 6 and 11 a.m. Monday - Friday, applicants will often be able to receive their medical reports later that afternoon. In cases involving a Class A finding of health-based inadmissibility, the clinic will send the report directly to the consulate.  Applicants under the age of 15 who have to take the TB skin test are advised on the consulate website to have their medical exam taken at least four business days before the scheduled consular interview.  This is to allow enough time for the test results to be available before the interview.  

Applicant Support Center

The ASC is located in the plaza adjacent to the consulate and a few storefronts away from the Sala de Espera.  Adjacent businesses also appear to be offering official services related to consular processing, so caution your clients accordingly.  Applicants should make their ASC appointment online and can do this before or after the medical exam, but they are advised not to wait until the same day as the consular interview because of the likelihood that the biometrics results will not be available in time for review by the consular officer.  The ASC is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Monday - Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.  Each visa applicant should bring his/her passport, DS-260 confirmation page, the visa appointment letter, and the ASC appointment.  All applicants are photographed; biometrics are taken of applicants age seven and over.  Applicants can expect the ASC appointment to be completed within ten minutes. 

Sala de Espera

The consulate waiting room, or Sala de Espera, is run by the municipality and staffed by municipal employees. All visa applicants must report here before their consular appointment, and they are then escorted to the consulate entrance in groups based on their appointment time.  Applicants who forgot or lost their appointment letters may go to the consulate information window, which opens at 7:30 a.m., to obtain a new one.

The Sala de Espera has lockers for safeguarding items that may not be taken into the Consulate, and it has snacks for purchase, bathrooms, and a safe place for family members to wait while visa applicants attend their interviews. Applicants and family members who believe they have been the victim of a scam or fraud may report this to waiting room staff, who provide the information to local law enforcement.

Consulate Interviews

The first IV interviews are scheduled for 7:15 a.m.  Upon entering the consulate, applicants receive a ticket with a four-digit case number and proceed to an outdoor covered waiting area if the interior waiting area is full, or to a waiting area directly inside the consulate.  In both waiting areas, large electronic boards flash case numbers that direct applicants to particular numbered windows with the consular officer sitting on the other side.  Applicants are first called to a document review window for submission of their passports and civil documents.  The applicant then returns to his or her seat to wait to be called to the designated window for the visa interview.  If an applicant missed seeing his or her number on the electronic board, the applicant's name and/or case number will be called by loudspeaker if necessary.  Currently, there are about 24 officers conducing IV interviews; applicants should be prepared to be at the consulate for at least two hours and possibly as long as three and a half hours.  Consular officers are scheduled for up to 30 interviews per day, and in a straightforward case without any apparent inadmissibility issues, the interview may be completed in a few minutes.  Consulate officials stressed the importance of preparing applicants to be familiar with the dates of their entries to and exits from the United States so that their interviews are not delayed or their cases placed in administrative processing until the information can  be provided.   In certain situations where an applicant needs a family member's assistance to provide information requested by the consular officer, the applicant may be provided with a "blue ticket" to exit the consulate and then return to the interview with the family member.

Generally, applicants approved for visa issuance who are waiting in Cd. Juarez should have their visa packets available for pick-up within two-three days.  The consulate tries to keep local CBP informed about the number of visas issued so that they are staffed appropriately for visa holders seeking admission at the port of entry.

The Consular Information Unit (CIU) has three staff responding to legal, congressional, and public inquiries. Approximately 1,000 inquires are received monthly, and it currently takes up to ten days to respond to a legal inquiry.  Advocates should submit inquiries using the form on the consulate website, and include the applicant's name and case number.  It is not necessary to know or include the name of the consular officer who interviewed your client.  If you do not receive a response within ten days, you may follow up with a second inquiry.

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DS-260 Online Application Now Used Worldwide

DS-260 Online Application Now Used Worldwide
By Kristina Karpinski
On September 3, 2013, the Department of State implemented use of the DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, and the DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. These two forms are to be used for immigrant visa applicants processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. The DOS introduced the online forms in 2010, but until now required them only for applicants processing at a limited number of posts.
The online DS-260 and DS-261 are replacing the paper DS-230 and DS-3032. The online forms are submitted to DOS through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC) website at ceac.state.gov.  In order to access the online forms, the applicant or preparer must input his or her NVC case number and invoice I.D. number. All of the information entered online is accessible by the National Visa Center (NVC) and the consular posts, and the applicant is not required to submit a paper version to the NVC or bring a copy to the visa interview. Applicants applying for immigrant visas under the Diversity Lottery Visa program and the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program will continue to use the DS-230.
Most fields on the DS-260 must be completed before the application can be submitted to DOS. The system will not allow you to continue without providing the required information unless the field is specifically marked "Optional." If a mandatory field is left blank, an error message will appear and the applicant must complete the required field before proceeding with the form. A partially completed application can be saved by clicking on the "Save" button at the bottom of each page. It is recommended that data be saved often to ensure information is not lost. A saved application can be accessed by returning to the CEAC website and selecting View/Edit from the IV and Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa - Summary Information screen. The applicant can continue completing the form by clicking on the "Edit" button on the right side of the application's listed status. Once all of the fields are completed, the applicant submits the form by clicking on the "Sign and Submit Application" button. Should the applicant need to make any changes to the form after submission, he or she will have to contact the NVC to request access to the form. If a case has already been sent by NVC to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate interview, any changes to the form will have to be made at the post.
The NVC has indicated that if an applicant has already submitted the DS-230 and it has been accepted, the DS-260 will generally not be required unless specifically requested by NVC or a consular officer. If a case is already documentarily qualified and awaiting scheduling of the IV interview, the case will proceed with the DS-230. If a case is still in the document collection phase and NVC sends a checklist for additional information or documents, a request may be made to complete the DS-260 even if the DS-230 was previously submitted. The applicant will be instructed by NVC if completion of the DS-260 is necessary.
It is important to distinguish the now mandatory use of the DS-260 for processing at all embassies and consulates worldwide from the "Electronic Processing Program" used for electronic submission of documents and the I-864 Affidavit of Support for processing at select embassies and consulates. Under this program, the I-864is downloaded, completed, signed, scanned, saved as a PDF file and e-mailed to the NVC. Also, the required civil documents and supporting documents must be converted to pdf files and then e-mailed to the NVC. For these select consular posts it is not required to mail the I-864, civil documents, and other supporting documents to the NVC, but the applicant must be prepared to present the original physical documents at the time of the visa interview. For all other posts, the I-864 and documentation are still mailed to the NVC.
Currently, all immigrant visa applicants processing at the following consular posts are required to submit their documents and I-864 electronically under the electronic processing program: Amman, Jordan; Ashgabat, Turkmenistan; Damascus, Syria; and Sana'a, Yemen,. Some special immigrants processing at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan also process under this program. Applicants processing at the consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico who are immigrating as the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen (i.e., in the IR-1, IR-2, CR-1 or CR-2 categories), are also required to follow the instructions for electronic processing. These applicants will have "MEP" as the first three letters of their NVC case number for "Mexico Electronic Processing." Additionally, applicants processing in Guangzhou, China and Montreal, Canada have the option of either processing electronically or submitting their documents and the I-864 by mail. Eventually, processing through all posts will be done electronically.
For additional information on the DS-260, DS-261 and Electronic Processing Program, go to travel.state.gov and read the FAQs on DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application and the instruction pages on Required Electronic Processing and Optional Electronic Processing.
 
 
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Recorded Webinar: Consular Processing - Seeking an Advisory Opinion from the Department of State Visa Office

Price: $25.00

Have you ever disagreed with a U.S. consular officer's decision  to deny an immigrant visa to your client?  Or disagreed with the consulate's interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act or the application of one of the grounds of inadmissibility?  If so, did you know you can seek an advisory opinion from the Department of State Visa Office?   Join CLINIC attorneys Jennie Guilfoyle and Kristina Karpinski as they speak with Visa Office Attorney Chloe Dybdahl and learn more about the role of the Visa Office; the types of issues the office deals with most often; practical tips on seeking advisory opinions; and how these opinions may help to get your cases resolved.

Held on July 24, 2013

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