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Holiday Travel Without Current Valid Visas

Various year-end holidays will be coming up in the near future. Historically, many people have chosen holiday times to travel back home to visit family and friends. The purpose of this memorandum is to discourage such travel or, if such travel is chosen, to make you aware of the potential pitfalls.

This memorandum is primarily addressed to persons who will need new visas in order to return to the United States. This includes people whose visas have expired, or, who have received extensions of stay and, a new visa is necessary. It also includes people who have changed from one visa classification to another but have never obtained an appropriate visa stamp in their passports.

The U.S. Consulates have implemented a procedure where most persons applying for visas now must be interviewed. Since no new allocation of personnel has been concurrently granted, this change has already begun putting strain on the current resources. For example, it is now taking approximately 6 weeks for an interview to be scheduled in London and another 10 days after the interview for the passport to be returned to the applicant. Delays of more than a month are being encountered in numerous consulates throughout the world and these delays are for the standard, straightforward cases. Those people whose name, for one reason or another, may not be cleared by the first security check can expect delays of up to 6 months while their name is being cleared. While a 6-month delay should be rather infrequently encountered, if you are the one who is suffering the delay, it could be extremely stressful and can create hardships for you, your family, and your employer.

There are a few limited solutions to this lengthy delay problem:
1. If you had a visa stamp already in your passport which has not yet expired or has expired within the last 12 months, you may apply for a visa revalidation from the State Department in the United States. While this is still a viable procedure, the State Department is returning many passports to individuals who are using this procedure, advising them that, in light of the interview requirement, they must go back to their home country to apply. In addition, revalidations are taking between 10-12 weeks.

2. It is still possible to go to Canada or Mexico to apply for a visa. However, please understand that if the visa is not issued and you do not have a current valid visa in your passport, you will not be allowed back into the United States and will have to fly directly from Canada or Mexico to your home country to apply for a visa.

3. You may want to contact the American Consulate in your home country well in advance of your travel home to see if they are willing to accommodate you by either prescreening your application for a visa or setting a future appointment for as soon as you return home.

It is quite possible that if you chose to travel home during the holiday season, that you will encounter no difficulties. However, due to the stories which we are hearing, it appears that a significant number of people could encounter substantial delays.

If you had to register since you are from one of the countries designated by the U.S. Department of State, please note the following 4 things:
1. You must re-register within 12 months of your previous registration;
2. You must leave the United States to a designated airport. If you do not, the chances of getting back into the United States are significantly reduced;
3. Be sure that you have documentation to prove to the American Consulate that you actually registered;
4. You will more likely have delays in your visa processing than persons applying for visas who are from non-registration countries.

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