Ask the Consul – June 2020

Consular operational status, Nonimmigrant and Immigrant visa interviews, disruptions caused by the pandemic


Q:  When will the Consular Section reopen?

A:  Since early April, the U.S. Embassy has implemented a 100% remote work policy to protect its employees and support public measures to stem the spread of Covid-19. Excepting only those activities which must be done on premises to protect life and property, the duties of U.S. Embassy staff are being performed largely from their homes by telework. The U.S. Embassy has instructed its staff – and encourages everyone – to stay at home and practice social distancing.

If you are a U.S. citizen who received an automated message from the American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit informing you that your passport, federal benefits document or Consular Report of Birth Abroad is ready for pickup, please confirm with ACS via email at or via phone at 600-2017 to confirm a pickup date and time before attempting to travel to the consular section.

Because of public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,  the U.S Department of State began limiting its passport operations domestically in late March. (Passport centers in Arkansas and Tucson are where full validity passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad are printed for applications submitted in Georgetown).  If you have previously applied for a passport or citizenship service in late March or early April at the ACS unit, you should expect significant delays receiving your passport and your citizenship evidence documents.

Please contact us at to check on the status of your passport or child’s Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA).  If you have not received your Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), and have urgent travel, an emergency passport may be issued at the U.S. Embassy.  If you plan on sheltering in place and have no urgent travel plans, please consider waiting to apply until we resume normal passport operations.

As global conditions evolve and states in the United States begin to reopen, the consular section at the U.S. Embassy and our partner offices back in the United States will resume operations in phases, to ensure that we are protecting the safety of both our staff and our customers.

Phase 1:  Some of our employees will return to the Embassy, allowing us to resume limited processing of applications and emergency cases already received.  We will continue to prioritize emergency services for customers by appointment only.  Customers must wear cloth face coverings in all common areas, including our lobbies, and observe strict social distancing. During phase one, we will continue to recommend customers contact us via email before attempting to visit the Embassy.

Phase 2:  Most staff will return to offices and we will be able to resume more processing of U.S. passport applications and offer limited visa appointments.  We will continue prioritizing emergency cases.  Staff and customers should wear cloth face coverings in all common areas, including our lobbies, and continue to observe social distancing.

Phase 3:  All remaining staff will return to resume normal operations.  We will offer a processing time commitment for routine services in this phase.  You should continue to schedule your appointment online.  Staff and customers will still be recommended to wear cloth face coverings in common areas and we will encourage social distancing

Q:  I am a U.S. citizen.  How do I contact the U.S. Embassy if I have an emergency?

A:  If you have a medical emergency, please go to your nearest medical center or call 911.  For other emergencies, please email us at or call 592-225-4900 or 1-888-407-4747.  From Overseas call +1-202-501-4444.  The U.S. Embassy staff are receiving many calls and emails daily.  Please be patient as they are returning calls and emails as quickly as they can.

Q:  My granddaughter lives in Miami.  I want to visit to help her celebrate her birthday in August. When will I be able to get a tourist visa?

A:  In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates.  Embassies and consulates have canceled all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020 but will continue to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services as resources and local conditions allow.  We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.  Please see these notices which contain detailed information about the current status of visa services worldwide and visa restrictions related to the COVID-19 global pandemic:

Q:  My family has an immigrant petition.  We have been waiting for years for our petition to become current.  We were going to be interviewed in April, but our interview was cancelled.  Our daughter will turn 21 years old soon.  I don’t want her to lose her chance to immigrate with us.  What should I do?

A:  In certain circumstances, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) protects children who turn 21 while the immigrant petition is being processed.  Please contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) at for more information about CSPA and your child’s status.  If your child does not qualify under CSPA, the National Visa Center (NVC) may be able to expedite your appointment when interviews resume so that your family can be interviewed before your daughter’s 21st birthday.

Q:  I had my immigrant visa interview before the pandemic and didn’t bring my original birth certificate.  How should I submit it?  Will I need to be interviewed again after all of this time?

A: In most cases a second interview is not required, however, every case is unique.  You will need to wait until the U.S. Embassy is open for normal services again before you can bring your original document to the Embassy.  Depending on how long the pandemic restrictions continue, you may need to get another medical clearance from a panel physician.  The medical report is only valid for 3-6 months and must be valid when you arrive in the United States.  Please wait until the U.S. Embassy resumes a normal schedule before visiting the panel physician again. If you are unsure of whether you need a new medical clearance, please contact  You can find all the latest information about the U.S. Embassy pandemic response and interview scheduling at

“Ask the Consul” is a monthly column from the U.S. Embassy answering questions about U.S. immigration law and visa issues.  Detailed information about visas and travel can be viewed at, and  Applicants are strongly encouraged to prepare their own documents and avoid third-party advice.  U.S. Consular rules change frequently, and non-US government advisors often provide inadequate or inaccurate information.  Please contact our Visa Information Service Center on toll free numbers: 1-877-246-6788 or 703-988-5765 if you have general visa questions.