There are many people affected by COVID problems and Trump’s latest ban. One of the most unfair consequences is for people that had completed their processing, been issued with visas, and now, due to the COVID travel restrictions, have been unable to activate their visas. So – this article is for those people.

People holding unexpired visas are excluded from the immigrant ban and are able to enter and activate their LPR status. Until they have “activated” they are not considered LPRs and therefore cannot claim to need a space on repatriation flights. But a lot of people will be finding that even though they are able to enter the USA, they are unable to travel because of various travel restrictions (either their own countries restrictions, or USA restrictions such as those from the Schengen area of Europe.

So – first, based on where you live, if your visa is still unexpired, the best thing to do is find a way to travel to the USA. If you are affected by the entry rules, you may be able to stay in some other country for long enough to avoid restrictions when coming in to the USA. For example, there is a direct flight from Belgrade to New York (and Serbia is not covered by the Schengen area so is not banned). Obviously you cannot take a connecting flight through a banned country, so do a little research and see what options are available. For that to work you would need to prove that you were in the non banned country for the previous 14 days. I should point out that the immigration officials don’t “support” you doing this, so you may have difficulties at the border, but it should work out in the end.

Next. If your visa is about to expire or already expired. As I explained in a previous article, there is official guidance that allows for re-issuance of an expired visa. Tewchnically it is a re-issuance, not extension. That means it can’t be done until the visa has expired, and you have to payt the fees again, get a new medical and all of that can ONLY happen within the same fiscal year – meaning by September 30. The expiry date would then be 6 months from the new medical, and that can mean your visa is valid past September 30th. So – there is supposed to be an option to extend, even if it is somewhat expensive. This scenario is handled by the original embassy that interviewed you, and may be possible even while the embassies are closed since they should not need to re-interview you.

HOWEVER, many embassies are publishing or responding that re-issuance is prohibited by the immigrant ban currently in force. The ban itself is not clear about that scenario and there are conflicting statements being issued by embassies and the department of state.

So – here is what you must do if you need to extend (re-issue) your visa.

Check the website of your embassy and see if you can find information or a statement about re-issuance of an immigrant visa. Then, write an email or phone the embassy in control of your case explaining your situation and ask them about how to get your visa re-issued. Be POLITE but persistent. In the request for re-issuance be certain to refer to the following two things.

The Department of State announcement that says “If you were previously issued a visa for the DV-2020 program that was valid on April 23 and that visa expired before you were able to travel to the United States, please contact the Embassy or Consulate where your visa was issued for further information.” Give them the link and the text. DoS are not explicit – but seem to be leaving the door open.

Then refer to the following link from the Bulgarian US embassy. Their website says that someone may apply for re-issuance.

I know of at lest one person that has managed to get re-issuance during the ban (from the Slovakian US embassy).

So if your embassy maintains that visas cannot be extended during the ban, ask them to check with DoS, because the guidance seems to suggest it is possible. Remember, the idea is to be firm, but polite. You need them to be on your side, so do not be rude. They are busy and it is easier to put you off. The answer you get finally may not be the one you are looking for – as I said, the position is unclear. But you should try.

Lastly, I have asked the legal team at AILA to include this situation in their legal challenge of the ban. That challenge will hopefully be filed in the week commencing July 13th, so if that is successful it will bring some clarity. But a Greencard is life changing thing, so you should be prepared to do whatever you can to grasp your opportunity.