Fix the broken consular immigration process
Fix the broken consular immigration process
Edit: Since this petition was posted, there have been new developments. It seems that the Department of State is making an effort to unwind these backlogs, although they make no promises that it will be quick or efficient: https://www.state.gov/briefing-with-consular-affairs-acting-deputy-assistant-secretary-for-visa-services-julie-m-stufft-on-the-current-status-of-immigrant-visa-processing-at-embassies-and-consulates/
This means that the DoS is allegedly making this backlog a high priority and consular processing is resuming to the extent deemed possible. While this is a small relief, it does nothing to address the chronic deficiencies in the system which allow the process to take multiple years in the first place. Please continue to sign the petition and share it to create publicity for all the families currently stuck in the broken system and all those who will have to go through it in the future. It is cruel and absurd to keep families separated for years while the government processes what is ultimately a couple hours' worth of paperwork and an interview. There must be an overhaul and modernization of this system before we can call this work done. Congress doesn't think it is worth their time but hopefully we can convince them otherwise!
Recent statistics - all these are for Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas only - the spouses/children/parents of U.S. citizens:
Current USCIS processing times: about 12 months on average, but varies widely by service center. https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/
Current cases in process at NVC: 851,822 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HN10swxEbGBK57odb7qItqyKzhRgS203/view?fbclid=IwAR1UKl_b2M5duUzxLzL2srWGiJT-P1rcKr4EJx9gES-V-6-CmUajFG0Y6Nw (see page 13, IR1-IR5 visas)
This means that there are almost a million families stuck at NVC, along with perhaps that many more cases stuck in the yearlong process at USCIS and more still sent to the consulates awaiting their interviews. This is probably millions of families kept apart for multiple years in this broken system that Congress doesn't think it's worth their time to work on.
This petition is to urge the U.S. Department of State to resume spousal immigrant visa processing and start reducing the massive backlogs that are keeping married couples apart for years.
Immigration has been in the news quite a bit recently. Most of the coverage is centered around resolving problems stemming from illegal immigration, but most people are surprised to learn that thousands of U.S. citizens and their spouses are enduring multiple-year separations, frozen in a legal immigration system that is broken, neglected, and largely ignored by the media and politicians.
The total processing time for CR1 and IR1 spousal immigrant visas was already well over a year in 2018 and 2019. The final step in that IR/CR1 process, the consular interview, was put on hold last year when the consulates stopped operating due to COVID, and has not resumed since. Many consulates had year-plus backlogs even then. This means that married couples who have done everything by the books are facing additional years of waiting on top of the year or more they had already waited for the domestic processing beforehand. These are years that they must put their lives and families on hold, incurring large costs to visit each other if they are lucky enough to be able to do so. This step that is adding years to the process usually takes under an hour to complete and consists of some biometrics and a few cursory questions for most applicants.
Since last spring, offices at all levels of the public and private sector have resumed normal or near-normal operations. If you have traveled in an airport or by train, gone to the DMV or post office, or conducted any other business over the past year, you are well aware of this. Some consulates, such as Ciudad Juarez, have recently demonstrated their ability to operate efficiently even in the midst of refusing to do so. This consulate just rapidly processed a large round of interviews postponed from a year ago but then apparently stopped again. (edit - it is difficult to get accurate information on the numbers of interviews being granted; this is our best information based on sporadic reports from others in the system)
We recognize that COVID is a thing, but in fact it is entirely possible to safely conduct an interview and gather some fingerprints without risk. Many options exist, from conducting the interview in separate rooms or with PPE, to holding it remotely, to deferring it until it can be done to the agency's satisfaction. Applicants could be required to get COVID tests prior to the appointments. Immigrant spouses could be admitted with conditional statuses until that time if that is what it takes. There could be any number of other satisfactory solutions as well. (edit - some policy changes may require legislative action)
Members of Congress say, "It's the domain of the executive branch, there's nothing we can do." The president makes no mention of it. The consulates claim that they would process cases if the NVC would send them, and the NVC claims the consulates won't allow them to. And the months roll by, and nothing happens. What are we to do?
Family reunification is allegedly a cornerstone of the U.S. immigration system, and this shameful indefinite separation of spouses is a stain on that institution and the country. It is cruel, and there is no excuse for it. We are asking that the president and congress do something about this heartwrenching situation that so many families are facing. Change the procedures, change the requirements, change the law, or simply direct the consulates to stop shirking their duty, but don't continue to ignore this issue and force families to be apart for years with no end in sight.