Our clients should be aware of several important developments regarding the visa application process at U.S. consulates and embassies around the world.
The U.S. Department of State ("DOS") has raised the standard, machine-readable visa application fee from $100 (U.S.) to $131 (U.S.).
DOS launched a new Petition Information Management Services ("PIMS"), by which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("CIS") transmits data on all approved work visa petitions to DOS’ Kentucky Consular Center ("KCC"). KCC then uploads the key information such as the petition, supporting documents, and beneficiary's identification documents into PIMS. When a foreign national later applies for a U.S. visa such as an H-1B or L-1 or O-1 visa, the U.S. consulate or embassy is able to access PIMS and see this data. The idea is to enable consular officers to better spot fraud, violations of status or other adverse information and to make more informed decisions on visa applications. The positive of this new system is that DOS may phase out the requirement to bring the original CIS petition “Approval Notice” as well as supporting documents to a visa interview , although bringing such documents is still necessary at this time. The negative is that delays in uploading data will result in delays in visa issuance. As always, we encourage our clients to plan a visa application months in advance, and leave some "buffer time" after the interview to allow for a modest delay in visa issuance if it occurs so as to still be able to make the planned flight back to the United States.