Update from the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez
On Jan. 27, 2022, CLINIC hosted a webinar with officials from the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez (CDJ). During the session the officials responded to several questions on current operations at the consulate and general tips on visa processing. A summary of the question and answer session appears below.*
*The summary comes from CLINIC’s notes of the speakers’ responses and not written answers provided by the consulate.
A. Current scheduling standards
Have you resumed “routine” immigrant visa scheduling or are you applying certain priorities? If so, what are those priorities? When do you anticipate providing “routine” visa scheduling?
Yes, the consulate has resumed scheduling of all classifications of immigrant visas.
What about fiancé(e) visa processing and scheduling? Are these cases all being processed in Mexico City?
New K visa applications will be processed through Mexico City to minimize wait times.
For cases that were scheduled for CDJ interviews in early 2020 but were cancelled due to COVID-19, have they all been rescheduled? If not, is there something that representatives can/should do to get rescheduled or to notify post that the case needs to be rescheduled?
The consulate has rescheduled all that it was able to identify in its system, but it has heard from some applicants that their interviews have not been rescheduled. If you have clients that have not been rescheduled, notify the consulate right away through the webform.
Before the pandemic, the consulate was operating with a large backlog of immigrant visa applications — cases that had been found documentarily qualified by the NVC and awaiting the scheduling of an interview. Do you know what the backlog is now for IV applications that are determined to be documentarily qualified by the NVC?
Cases are scheduled by the National Visa Center (NVC) in the order they are completed (documentarily qualified). The consulate can’t provide a specific timeline on how long it will take to get an interview scheduled.
Is there a way for applicants or practitioners to “expedite” the scheduling of an interview? How should an applicant or a practitioner request emergency services and what documentation should they submit?
Yes, it is possible to request an emergency appointment. Information on the criteria and how to request an emergency interview are found on the consulate webpage.
Information from the website: Immigrant Visas: Emergency Appointment Criteria
Thousands of socially distanced routine appointments are now scheduled at the Consulate General each week by NVC. However, an applicant for an immigrant visa or K fiancé(e) visa may qualify for emergency scheduling if he or she is in Mexico and meets one or more of the following criteria:
- The applicant is the spouse or child of an active-duty member of the United States armed forces.
- The applicant, petitioner, or minor child of the applicant has a life-threatening medical emergency that requires the applicant’s immediate travel to the United States.
- The applicant or his/her spouse is an essential worker, and the applicant’s immediate travel to the United States is necessary for the essential work to continue or resume. This includes providing childcare while a spouse performs essential work. Essential workers, in this context, include physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals; those conducting medical or other research to combat the spread of COVID-19; or those performing work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The applicant is an at-risk minor in Mexico without his/her parent(s).
- The applicant may age-out of a visa category or other benefit within the next six months. (Applicants who are protected by the Child Status Protection Act do not qualify for emergency processing, as they are not at risk of aging out.)
- Biological or legally adopted children of U.S. Citizens (generally IR-2), who are within six months of turning 18, and who will reside in the physical custody of their U.S. Citizen parent in the United States, may qualify for expedited processing to access Child Citizenship Act benefits.
This list is not all-inclusive.
Emergency appointments should be requested based on the specific, individual circumstances of the petitioner, applicant, or family members. Requests for emergency appointments are evaluated by consular officers, and the decisions cannot be appealed.
How to Request an Emergency Immigrant Visa Appointment
- Emergency appointment criteria are the same for cases at the National Visa Center or the Consulate General.
- For cases at the National Visa Center (NVC), applicants or attorneys should use the form here.
- For cases already transferred to the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, applicants should use the form here.
- For cases already transferred to the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, attorneys should use the form here.
Please include a contact email address. Be prepared to provide evidence of essential employment, medical diagnoses, approved I-601 or I-212, or other documents relevant to your case, in PDF format, upon email request. If your request for emergency processing is approved, the Consulate may contact you by email or phone or physical mail, to schedule an interview appointment.
Can you walk us through a typical timeline and process for an immigrant visa applicant coming from the United States (assuming no inadmissibility issues)? How soon before their visa interview should they plan to arrive in Cd. Juarez and how long should they expect to wait for the visa approval?
All applicants must schedule their biometrics and medical appointments ahead of the interview so they will know how many days before their interview they need to be in CDJ. Applicants should use the webpage: https://ais.usvisa-info.com/es-MX/iv/users/sign_in for scheduling Application Support Center appointments. The website also contains Call Center information (Phone: +52 656 344 3003) and information on the DHL courier service.
The consulate does not give specific time frames for when the visa will be issued after an interview. The consulate recommends holding off on making travel arrangements until the passport and visa are returned to the applicant. Sometimes things come up beyond the control of the applicant and consulate.
B. Impact of COVID-19
To what extent are COVID-19 protections affecting procedures at the consulate?
The consulate is in compliance with all the CDC guidelines on COVID-19 safety measures to mitigate covid impact including: requiring the use of face masks; ample space for social distancing in public spaces and waiting areas inside and outside the consulate; availability of hand sanitizer inside facilities; and all applicants must complete medical exam prior to the interview.
All applicants will be required to appear on two consecutive business days for the visa appointment. This helps the consulate maintain social distancing protocols and allow for increased appointment capacity.
What are the current COVID-19 vaccine requirements for immigrant visa applicants?
The applicant must come to the interview fully vaccinated for Covid-19 with an authorized vaccine available in Mexico. If coming from the United States, come fully vaccinated, since it is very difficult to find authorized vaccines in Mexico. If the applicant is not fully vaccinated at time of interview, the consulate would have to refuse them. The best source of data for authorized vaccines is the CDC website. The CDC full vaccination (two shots of Pfizer or Moderna or one of J &J.). There are waivers available, but just like other vaccinations if the applicant appears for the medical exam and has not been vaccinated, he or she could be found inadmissible. Hence, get vaccinated before appearing for medical examination.
Are there any additional COVID-19 requirements for those granted an immigrant visa in order to be admitted to the United States (e.g., negative test result)? If so, do you advise applicants of these requirements at the time of the visa interview?
Check out the CDC requirements, since it is different if entering by air or land. These have changed a few times so the consulate wants to be sure the applicant has up-to-date guidance.
C. Current Operations
a. Staffing levels
What is the current staffing at the consulate? Are you planning on any increase in staffing?
Staffing is controlled by the State Department and not the consulate.
What is the best way to communicate with the consulate?
The preferred way to contact is through the webform on the consulate webpage.
How can an applicant or practitioner submit additional documents in a pending case?
It is best to bring the documents to the visa interview.
If an applicant is told by the NVC that they need to supplement the documentation — such as a recent tax return from the sponsor — can that document be submitted at a consular interview, or should it be submitted prior through CEAC?
If instructed by NVC to upload documents through CEAC, best to upload through CEAC. Otherwise, the applicant can bring the additional documents to the consular interview.
Once the DS-260 is submitted, is it possible to reopen it to correct a mistake or add information? If not, what is the best way to correct a mistake at the time of the interview?
The consulate cannot re-open the DS-260 once submitted, so the applicant should be prepared to inform consular officials of any changes that need to be made.
If a representative is new to a case, what is the best way to submit a G-28 notice of appearance if the case is already at the consulate?
The new representative has to inform the consulate through the webform that he or she wants to submit a G-28. The consulate will email back a reply and the representative will then attach a G-28 to a return email to consulate.
c. Biometrics, medical exams, and police clearance letters
In addition to Cd. Juarez, where else within Mexico can an applicant have biometrics taken?
There are several Application Support Centers throughout Mexico including Mexico City where one can get biometrics done. There is only one facility in Cd. Juarez.
Can the consulate accept biometrics that an applicant already provided within the United States as part of the I-601A processing?
No, biometrics taken as part of I-601A process are not acceptable for the immigrant visa process. The applicant will need new biometrics.
Do applicants need only to provide police certificates from the Mexican state where they live now or from every state in Mexico where they’ve lived for over six months since the age 18?
Police certificates issued by one of the state government authorities (Fiscalía General del Estado) will be acceptable. Applicants don’t need to provide one from each state in Mexico where they have lived (unless specifically requested by a consular officer, which would be rare).
D. Public Charge/Affidavit of Support
What advice do you have for practitioners preparing their clients for an immigrant visa interview with respect to the current public charge ground of inadmissibility? Should they plan on coming to the consular interview with supporting documentation such as updated tax returns or income?
Make sure client is familiar with the affidavit of support. Sometimes they are unaware of what is on it and sometimes don’t know who their joint sponsor is. A good idea is to come to the interview prepared with updated supporting documents.
Can you explain when an immigrant visa applicant would be refused under 212(a)(4) for public charge inadmissibility and when an applicant would be refused based on 221(g) for insufficient supporting documentation?
The FAM breaks down when the refusal would be 221(g) versus 212(a)(4). A big factor the consulate sees in refusing based on public charge is the domicile of the petitioner. Petitioner/sponsors who are residing in Mexico need to be prepared to explain plans to re-establish domicile in the United States along with the applicant.
E. Revalidation of Visas/Visa Fees
a. IV Fees
When does an immigrant visa applicant have to re-pay the DS-260 immigrant visa fee?
A new fee will be required if visa refusal was made more than a year ago. The FAM states:
9 FAM 504.6-5(B) (U) No Second Processing Fee (CT:VISA-1456; 01-19-2022)
a. (U) Do Not Collect a Second Processing Fee if:
- (U) The previously refused applicant, within one year of the date of refusal, is either issued a visa based on the relief provided in INA 212(g), (h), or (i), or any similar provision of law, or if evidence is presented to overcome the refusal within one year of the date of refusal, or an I-601 waiver is requested and takes longer than a year to process;
- (U) The applicant requests a reopening of the case within one year from the date the visa was originally refused (see 22 CFR 42.81(e));
- (U) The visa was previously refused because the medical examination disclosed that the applicant might be ineligible under INA 212(a)(1) and the examining physician requested that the applicant undergo follow-up examinations or tests before making a final decision;
- (U) The visa was previously refused solely for the absence of a document which is available only from a U.S. Government agency, and if it is apparent that the applicant's failure to present the document was due to the U.S. Government agency’s delay in providing it;
- (U) The final decision on the application is delayed pending the receipt of an AO from the Department or the completion of investigations initiated by the Department or the post;
- (U) The original refusal was based on a consular error;
- (U) Processing for an I-601 waiver takes longer than one year unless there is a delay on the part of the applicant; or
- (U) The immigrant visa applicant was previously refused an immigrant visa on or between December 8, 2017, and January 19, 2020, and the sole ground of ineligibility was based on Presidential Proclamation (P.P.) 9645 or 9983, and the applicant is applying again for an immigrant visa.
- (a) (U) This provision also applies to the affidavit of support review fee, if the applicant would otherwise be required to pay that fee again.
- (b) (U) This provision provides only for a one-time exemption from the applicable fees per applicant.
- (c) (U) Some applicants were initially denied IVs under P.P. 9645 or 9983 and additional refusal grounds. These applicants are not eligible for fee exemption, unless a consular officer had previously determined that the refusal on other grounds had been overcome and the only impediment to issuance of an immigrant visa on January 20, 2021, was either P.P. 9645 or 9983, as reflected in a denial under section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f).
b. Expired IV
What steps should a person take who was issued an immigrant visa and then was unable to travel before the six-month validity expired?
The immigrant visa holder should contact the consulate through the webform on the consulate website and explain the reasons for being unable to travel. The consulate may need the results from a new medical exam because of validity period, but should not need a new interview.
c. Expired I-129F approval
What steps should a fiancé(e) take to extend the I-129F four-month approval validity in the event the fiancé(e) is not scheduled for an interview within that period?
It is happening often now that an interview will be scheduled after the expiration of the approval notice. The I-129F will be revalidated by the consular officer.
F. Termination under INA § 203(g): actions to satisfy once/year contact
The consulate is not sending out termination letters at this time.
a. Provisional waivers
What are common grounds of inadmissibility you are discovering that cause the provisional waiver to be revoked?
A finding of inadmissibility will depend on the facts in the case, but the consulate has seen outstanding orders of removal where no I-212 has been approved.
If the applicant is unable to get an approved COVID-19 vaccine before the interview, will their provisional waiver be revoked? If yes, should they instead request that their interview be rescheduled?
Yes, the stakes can be high if there is an approved I-601A since it is only valid if inadmissible based on unlawful presence. If the applicant is not fully vaccinated, suggest rescheduling the appointment until the applicant can get fully vaccinated. May also be able to get a blanket waiver if the vaccine is not available. The best resource is CDC technical instructions on requirements and waivers. If you go to medical exam and talk to the panel physician about efforts to get vaccinated, you may be eligible for a blanket waiver if the vaccine is not available.
b. Other waivers
What is the process for an applicant who was previously found inadmissible but has since received an I-601 approval: Will a new interview be automatically rescheduled? Will any new fees need to be paid? Is there anything representatives can/should do to complete the processing?
The consulate will receive a notice from USCIS when an I-601 is approved. It will prepare a letter to notify the applicant of the next steps in the case, such as the need for a new medical exam, police certificate, updates to DS-260 or the payment of the visa fees. Generally, the consulate can resume processing without the need for the applicant to return for another interview.
What is the best way to contact the consulate to register a U.S. citizen birth abroad?
There are units at the consulates that offer American Citizen Services. You can contact the consulates throughout Mexico for information on obtaining a Consular Report of Birth Abroad at each particular consulate. It is really important to screen for this issue as sometimes the child will go through the whole immigrant visa process and the consulate determines they are a citizen. The consulate will not issue an immigrant visa to someone who is already a citizen.
What are the circumstances under which the consulate will allow a person who is not a Mexican citizen to process their immigrant visa application in Cd. Juarez? How should that request be made?
If a case is still at the NVC, a request should be made for third country processing though the NVC. NVC will send a request to the consulate. It is in the discretion of the consulate whether or not to accept the case for processing based on 9 FAM 504.4-8(D) (inability to travel due to physical infirmity, advanced age, war or civil unrest).
How can an applicant reschedule an appointment?
Send a request through the webform. The consulate will reschedule when appointments are available. The consulate recognizes this is an issue and also recognizes that some applicants received late notification of appointments, but believes the issue has been resolved.
Please provide tips on how legal representatives can help clients prepare for the interview?
Make sure the clients have original documents or certified copies with them, especially divorce certificates if applicable. Process is often delayed because of this. Also, the consulate needs proof of resolution of any criminal issues or removal proceedings at the time of the interview. Also needed is an original birth certificate of the petitioner.