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Immigration News - New Petition Verification Procedures May Result in Visa Processing Delays

December 12, 2007

By The Immigration Practice Group

New Petition Verification Procedures May Result in Visa Processing Delays at U.S. Consular Posts Abroad

Visa applicants at U.S. consular posts abroad may face processing delays as a result of a new procedure implemented recently by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). In its November 25, 2007 cable, the DOS instructed all U.S. consular posts to use DOS-issued electronic reports to verify the approval of H, L, O, P, or Q visa petitions when processing foreign nationals visa applications. Under the new procedure, the original I-797 approval notice no longer conclusively evidences the approval of an employers petition.

The cable instructs consular officers adjudicating H, L, O, P, or Q visas to verify the approval of the underlying petition through an electronic PIMS (Petition Information Management Service) Petition Report, a database administrated by the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC). This database should contain all information on the underlying petition, petitioner, and beneficiary, which should be accessible immediately. If the information on a specific petition cannot be located immediately, the consular officers are instructed to request this information from the KCC via email. The KCC is required to research the approval of the petition and, if able to confirm the approval, advise the consular post electronically within two working days.

Consular posts are allowed to accept an I-797 Notice of Action, which in the past served as the primary evidence of a nonimmigrant visa petition approval, to schedule a visa interview appointment only. According to the DOS cable, only the electronic PIMS report constitutes the verification of nonimmigrant visa petition approval for visa processing purposes.

Visa Application Fees to Increase

The DOS is expected to increase nonimmigrant visa application fees in early January from $100 to $131. Notice of the increase will likely be published soon in the Federal Register. The published notice will address whether pre-paid fees are grandfathered.