With the summer travel season getting into full swing, BAL urges employers and employees to take the following considerations into account when planning international trips.

Key Points:

  • U.S. embassy and consulate delays. The State Department has processed more visas in the last year than in any year since 2019. The agency expects to fully staff embassies and consulates this year and has improved administrative processing and gained other efficiencies. However, delays in consular processing continue, especially for tourists and business visitors. Foreign nationals who need a U.S. visa, whether renewing or applying for a new one, should plan ahead. Appointments may not be available at key visa processing posts.
  • Administrative processing. BAL has seen a reduction in the number of visa applications flagged for additional administrative processing, which typically lengthens the application timeline and may happen for a number of reasons, including government decisions to conduct more thorough security vetting. The National Vetting Center is helping decrease the number of people flagged as well as the time it takes to complete the vetting process. While some cases will continue to take longer, those involving applicants who appear for their interview or who submitted their paperwork through interview waiver since November are now taking about two weeks in most cases. Employers with employees who have an administrative processing case and have a particularly urgent need to be in the country should contact BAL.
  • Passport delays. U.S. passport services continue to be delayed. Routine passport services are taking 10 to 13 weeks from the date on which an application is received; expedited services are taking seven to nine weeks. Those in need of a passport should apply for one as soon as possible.
  • I-94 Stamp-free entry. Travelers arriving in the U.S. at certain ports of entry may not receive an ink-stamp in their passport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Instead, CBP may issues an online Form I-94 to track foreign nationals’ entry into the United States. Stamp-free entry can pose challenges to nonimmigrant visa holders, who need to provide proof of entry dates to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to maintain their status. These foreign nationals are urged to always immediately download their I-94 from CBP’s online system each time they enter the country to ensure that their information is correct and, if it is not, promptly take action to fix any errors.
  • COVID-19 restrictions in other countries. Some countries are still enforcing COVID-19 travel restrictions and health protocols, including pre-travel testing requirements, screening upon arrival and, in some cases, mandatory quarantines. Many countries have different policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. Employees should be aware of their destination country’s requirements and procedures and factor additional time into their travel plans.

Additional Information: The U.S. COVID-19 national public health emergency ended on May 11. The U.S. also rescinded the vaccination requirement for nonimmigrant foreign nationals to enter the country. As a reminder, the State Department increased consular filing fees for nonimmigrant visa applications on June 17; more information regarding the fee increases is available here.

BAL Analysis: Employers and employees should continue to consult their BAL professional before planning any international travel.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice Group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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