• US visas on hold worldwide

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    DESPITE recent attacks attributed to it, China is not the culprit behind the suspension of US visa processing worldwide.

    This was the assurance issued by the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (BCA) in response to public concern about temporary closure and rescheduling of visa interviews at visa offices worldwide–including the Philippines.

    Earlier last week, though, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, pointed to China as “the leading suspect” in the massive theft of sensitive US government records, which according to reports was more extensive than previously thought.

    In fact, at least 18 million people may have had their personal information stolen when hackers broke into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management.

    This breach of the sensitive files of the US government came at a time when the French government called the US Ambassador Jane Hartley to clarify reports that the US has been spying on its ally in Europe.

    “Not anymore,” President Obama said, practically admitting to the allegation after WikiLeaks reported the spying on past, successive French presidents before Francois Hollande.

    In the case of the State Department, the BCA was fairly certain Chinese hackers are not involved.

    More than 50,000 visa applications are received and would be affected daily worldwide, it noted, with more than 1,000 non-immigrant visa interviews a day at the US Embassy in Manila.

    Apologizing for the inconvenience to visa applicants, the BCA explained the technical problems are “not specific to any particular country or visa category,” and that at least 100 State Department experts are working urgently 24/7 to correct the problem and restore full operability.

    The US Embassy in Manila announced the temporary closure of the Non-immigrant Visa Unit on Thursday (June 18).

    As of the morning of June 27, the US Embassy website confirmed that it was still “experiencing technical problems with its visa systems.”

    The good news is you can still check the status of your visa application.

    Knowing when a visa would be issued, however, is another matter.

    What to do
    For non-immigrant visa applicants who have submitted their DS-160 online on or before June 8, they should have been interviewed last Friday, June 19, at the same time as the original appointment

    For those with visa interview appointments scheduled for June 14 to 20, 2015, reschedule appointments if the DS 160 form was submitted after June 9, 2015.

    Rescheduling of Appointments: “Appointments can be rescheduled by following the instructions located on (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph/index.html).

    Urgent Travel Needs: If you have an urgent travel, please send an e-mail to CONSManilaNIV@state.gov with the subject line “REQUEST FOR URGENT PROCESSING”. Applicants should follow the instructions for expedited emergency appointment found on http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph/ph-niv-expeditedappointment.asp.

    Emergency, Medical Treatment. Expedited requests for urgent medical treatment (including organ donation), visiting a dying immediate family member or attending the funeral of an immediate family member are being given priority.

    An applicant is reminded to “specify the applicant’s complete name, date of birth, passport number, date when the DS-160 form was accomplished, DS-160 barcode number and anticipated date and reason for travel. The Non-immigrant Visa Unit will advise all requesters accordingly. Those scheduled from June 15 to June 26 may, alternatively, reschedule their appointment at a later date.”

    For DS-160 submitted on or after June 9 (see the date in the “Completed On” section of your confirmation page), the embassy instructs applicants to return on Wednesday, July 1, at 12 noon.

    On the date of the new appointment, applicants must “bring the appointment confirmation letter for June 18, along with your DS-160 confirmation page, passport, photo and applicable supporting documents. Appointments may be rebooked by contacting the embassy call center at (02) 976-8500 to 02 (open from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) or go to the online appointment website, www.ustraveldocs.com/ph.

    For children of principal visa applicants who are turning 21, the law allows the child another 45 days (from turning 21) to be able to travel to the United States. If this provision turns out to be insufficient–and the visa issuance is delayed for more than 45 days–the affected visa beneficiary may avail of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).

    Under CSPA, a child who turned 21 (and was unable to be issued the immigrant visa within the 45 day limit under the Patriot Act) could still qualify as an accompanying derivative visa beneficiary if on the date the immigrant visa became available; the child would be considered a minor using the State Department formula, below. (An immigrant visa becomes available when the principal applicant’s priority date–the date the petition was filed and received by the US Immigration Service–becomes current).

    The Visa Bulletin publishes the priority dates (cut-off dates) within the first to second week of each month.

    Step 1. Determine the age of the child on the date the priority date became current. For example, if this month’s Visa Bulletin (July 2015) says the priority date for the F1 category–unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens) is March 15, 2000, determine the age of the child on the first date of July this year.

    Step 2. Deduct the time the petition for the principal applicant was pending. Check the date the petition was filed and the date the petition was approved. If the petition was approved after 12 months, then deduct the 12 months from the age of the child.

    Step 3. If the sum shows the child is still below 21 at the time the priority date becomes current (which is also the date the immigrant visa became available), then the child qualifies under CSPA and could still be issued the immigrant visa.

    Assuming technical difficulties have been resolved at the time.

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