“Your previous article has really stirred things up …. a lot of retaliation against who people think might have written you…which is now a large group of suspects…”
In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services.
The H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority. Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions. Secretary Pompeo, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility. This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months, and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in-person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa. We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview.
Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic. We encourage applicants to consult with the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate in order to confirm the level of services currently offered. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.
The American Farm Bureau is raising concern over potential labor and supply chain issues as the State Department announced it is suspending immigrant and nonimmigrant visas out of their US Embassies across Mexico https://t.co/UdNDvcbmUb
— CNN (@CNN) March 18, 2020
U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico to shut down, threatening labor supply for American farms
Failure to provide work visas 'will impact our ability to provide a healthy, affordable domestic food supply,' Farm Bureau says.https://t.co/yCibHJ6XRp
— America's Voice (@AmericasVoice) March 18, 2020
State Department bows to pressure from farm groups that said Americans would see "bare shelves in grocery stores" without laborers https://t.co/yxCLUc2Y6L
— Roll Call (@rollcall) March 27, 2020
Suspension of visa processing for Mexican seasonal workers hits U.S. farms, fisheries https://t.co/M1fPbzXAXW
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 18, 2020
CLARIFICATION: Please note that you must have an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019) to apply. https://t.co/U9uVQ5tz6Q
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) March 27, 2020
I am told that Kenyan nurses and doctors are lining up at the US Embassy in Nairobi fighting to go to the US to help fight Covid 19.
Such departures at these times should be considered treason. #KaaNyumbani
— Robert Alai (@RobertAlai) March 28, 2020
The U.S. Mission wishes to clarify that the U.S. is not recruiting foreign medical professionals to assist in the COVID-19 response. Only individuals with an approved H or J petition will receive an emergency visa appointment. pic.twitter.com/Drj2U484of
— U.S. Mission Nigeria (@USEmbassyAbuja) March 27, 2020
Great outcome from our discussions with State Department, which will restart processing of J and H visa applications from medical professionals. An important first step, and we must address other significant obstacles for newly matched #IMGs. #SARSCoV2 https://t.co/pR5TPXRsjk
— William W. Pinsky, MD, FAAP, FACC (@ECFMGPrez) March 27, 2020
I’m told this tweet landed “poorly” @StateDept. US diplomats had no heads up. Visa services are supposed to be frozen. Calls from interested people are pouring in, so US citizens stuck abroad can’t get through. And it looks like the US is trying to steal other countries’ doctors. https://t.co/ilbic6pRaf
— Nahal Toosi (@nahaltoosi) March 27, 2020
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Say, Ian, I wanted to ask you a question about this doctor visas thing that you have on your web page. Are you moving medical professionals who can work on COVID-19 treatments basically to the front of the line or speeding up their processing or give them – giving them some sort of preference? And what would you say to people who say you’re essentially trying to poach people and you’re encouraging a brain drain? Thank you.
MR BROWNLEE: We had – excuse – thank you, Carol, for that question. We had some – I’ve got to confess maybe what we put up on the web page is not as clear as it might have been. We’re ready to work with people who are already accepted into existing U.S. programs and had otherwise planned to travel to the United States. We are not going out looking for others. These are people who were ready to come in. What we’ve done is around the world we have suspended routine visa services, but we are – we have not shut down visa services. We’ve suspended routine visa services, and our posts overseas are ready to work with applicants who are – who were already identified as being eligible for these visas. Does that answer your question?
QUESTION: My question is that – can I actually just follow up on Carol’s question about the visas with regards to the medical professionals? Thank you for the clarification, and I appreciate you saying the initial tweet maybe wasn’t clear enough. Can you – based on what you just said, can we just say now that there is actually an exception to medical professionals who already have their jobs secured but they need their visa to be processed? So can we say that State Department is actually processing those visas, because at the moment all other visas are suspended? And can you elaborate a little bit more on the motivation to process those visas over others? Thank you.
MR WALTERS: [MED CROSSING TO CA LANE]
Well, let me clarify one point. All other visas are not suspended. They are not suspended. We have suspended routine visa services so that we can concentrate our efforts on assisting U.S. citizens. But all other visa services are by no means suspended. So for example, adoption visas. We are still processing visas for U.S. couples who are adopting children overseas. In some cases where there are immigrant visas where an applicant would be at risk of aging out under the law, we are still processing those visas. What we’ve done is substantially reduced our – the provision of visa services.
But let me just – for the sake of absolute clarity, I will read you the – what we are saying about these student – excuse me, about these doctors. The Department of State stands ready to work with doctors and other medical professionals who are already accepted into existing U.S. programs and otherwise expected to travel to the United States to work or study. Even though routine visa services are suspended, the Department and our post services are working to serve the most urgent visa applicants as resources and local government restrictions allow. We encourage medical professionals who already have an approved U.S. visa petition or certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to consult with the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to determine what services that post is currently able to provide. Over.
QUESTION: Hi there. I’m sorry, I’m still confused about this whole physician, medical professional visa thing. If in fact there’s no special treatment being given to them or you’re not specifically encouraging them, why did you put out this tweet or this statement that was also on the travel.state.gov? It wasn’t just a tweet. I don’t get it. It just seems to be – if there is no special treatment, it seems to be a bit tone deaf, considering this mad scramble that everyone else in the world is going through, and including in the U.S.
And then the other thing I’d just like to point out is for everyone else who got that fact sheet, which is great – thank you very much – but make sure you scroll down in the repatriation section, because you don’t see all of the countries at first, and I made that mistake just now. Anyway, thank you for doing this.
MR BROWNLEE: I’m sorry. Once again, I had mute pressed. Matt, I – what I said to myself here was I’m going to have to take the question as to how this all came to pass. But we are still processing visas around the world for certain cases. These are one, certain H-2As are another. But otherwise I’m happy to take that question. Thank you.
Reconsider Travel to Turkmenistan due to the Global Health Advisory and Embassy Ashgabat’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.
On March 27, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all family members of U.S. government employees under the age of 18 in addition to the authorized departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees due to stringent travel restrictions and quarantine procedures that affect commercial flights.
The Government of Turkmenistan has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. All incoming international flights are being redirected to Turkmenabat, approximately 291 miles from Ashgabat. Passengers will be required to undergo medical screening and possibly involuntary quarantine at local medical facilities.
Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. Visit the website of U.S. Embassy Ashgabat for additional information on these new measures.
Medical protocols in Turkmenistan are not consistent with U.S. standards and some travelers have been required to undergo medical testing unrelated to COVID-19. Consider declining any medical testing unrelated to COVID-19.
Due to the possibility of quarantine of unknown length, carry additional supplies of necessary medication in carry-on luggage. Contact the U.S. Embassy if you are subject to quarantine or prior to undergoing any invasive medical testing or procedures.
Updated: March 28, 9:55 am PDT
(see below the official word from State.)
MR WALTERS: Thank you, Morgan. Hello, everybody, and thanks for the opportunity to give you an update once again. The Bureau of Medical Services really within this outbreak context has two focuses. The first focus is protecting our workforce both domestically and overseas, and our second focus, equally important, is assisting Consular and the rest of the department in the repatriation of American citizens that find them stranded – find themselves stranded in a number of different places around the world.
I can report first on the – on our efforts to protect our workforce. I know there’s a desire to keep pace with sort of how our workforce is doing. I can report that in a workforce of roughly 75,000 people overseas, 220 locations, our current case – COVID-positive cases are at 68. We have one Medevac in transit or in process. That’s an individual who was mildly symptomatic, and we’re coordinating that evacuation back to the States.
And domestically, we have 25 current cases, and – in eight locations around the country, but all are doing well. And that’s about it on the dashboard for today.
With regard to evacuations, I’ll focus first on the medical evacuations. We recently completed a medical evacuation of a coronavirus victim on behalf of DOD out of Camp Lemonnier. That individual – critically ill – was evacuated using our biocontainment capability to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and is doing very well.
An American citizen taken out of Bhutan maybe a week and a half ago and brought back to the United States is doing very well. A chief of mission person that was evacuated out of Ouagadougou was coronavirus-positive and was brought back to the States, is doing very well, and will be convalescing – is being discharged from the hospital and convalescing.
And we have one more that I reported on the dashboard, individual who was minimally symptomatic in south – in – not – in southern Africa, not South Africa – and will be brought back to the States in coming days.
We’re currently running through the State Department’s contracted aviation assets as opposed to charters. We conducted evacuations out of North Africa today, Tunis specifically, completed an evacuation flight out of – that went Ouagadougou to Monrovia, Liberia, and then up to Lisbon, and then back to the States. We’ll be launching more evacuation flights as early as tonight covering Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, into Madagascar. We’ll have one more stop in Africa that we’re working through right now, and then back to the States. And we’ll be conducting these operations over the next several days.
Second columns indicates the number of citizen repatriated, and the third column is the number of flights to-date. Click here to see complete lis.
U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.
On March 25, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of designated U.S. government employees from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic support Center, and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil due to security conditions and restricted travel options as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On December 31, 2019, the Embassy suspended public consular services, until further notice, as a result of damage done by Iranian-backed terrorist attacks on the Embassy compound. U.S. Consulate General Erbil remains open and continues to provide consular services. On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah. That institution has not reopened. Due to security concerns, U.S. Embassy personnel in Baghdad have been instructed not to use Baghdad International Airport.
U.S. citizens should not travel through Iraq to Syria to engage in armed conflict, where they would face extreme personal risks (kidnapping, injury, or death) and legal risks (arrest, fines, and expulsion). The Kurdistan Regional Government stated that it will impose prison sentences of up to ten years on individuals who illegally cross the border. Additionally, fighting on behalf of, or supporting designated terrorist organizations, is a crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines in the United States.
In between Netflix binges, take some time to read our 7⃣th SitRep on COVID-19 in #Iraq 🇮🇶.
— OCHA Iraq (@OCHAIraq) March 24, 2020
— RFI English (@RFI_En) March 26, 2020
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a reduction for training from the Iraqi Security Forces and a pause in the Coalition and NATO training missions in Iraq. The Ministry of Defence has decided to redeploy some of its personnel back to the UK. https://t.co/3F7S3GC4ZN pic.twitter.com/ZOyrPVta7q
— British Army (@BritishArmy) March 19, 2020
On March 25, the Department of State allowed for the Ordered Departure of all eligible family members (EFMs) under age 21 from Embassy Jakarta, Consulates Medan and Surabaya, and the U.S. Mission to ASEAN.
Commercial flight options may become limited, as well as decreased medical evacuation options from Indonesia. Indonesia’s health system has limited capacity to test for the virus causing COVID-19. Travelers should consider these factors and their health before traveling to Indonesia and follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus if they decide to travel.
⚠ Alert: U.S. Embassy Employees’ family members under 21 years are ordered to depart Indonesia.
More information here >> https://t.co/mz4vufPtiD
— U.S. Embassy Jakarta (@usembassyjkt) March 26, 2020
.@StateDept authorized the departure of U.S. personnel & family from any diplomatic/consular post at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to #COVID19 or who have requested departure based on a commensurate justification, incl. U.S. Mission to Indonesia & @USMission2ASEAN pic.twitter.com/d1COJYRXKL
— U.S. Embassy Jakarta (@usembassyjkt) March 20, 2020
A short piece on the death of Steven Dick, the 37-year-old British deputy ambassador to Hungary, after contracting coronavirus. Grim. A great guy and great diplomat, and another reminder that this is not just affecting the elderly.https://t.co/PUV5BDXY3L
— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) March 25, 2020
Devastated to hear about the death of Deputy Head of Mission at @ukinhungary Steven Dick. A kind hearted, dedicated diplomat who was an excellent colleague and good friend. Our heartfelt condolences to his family & colleagues both at the Embassy and in the @foreignoffice.
— Embassy of Hungary in the UK (@Hungary_in_UK) March 25, 2020
Steven Dick was lovely man; he joined @foreignoffice in 2008. One of his many friends here paid tribute to "warm, insightful & fiercely loyal" colleague. He had potential to be an outstanding diplomat, but yesterday Coronavirus cut him down #RIP pic.twitter.com/cJLDrqv1bD
— Sir Simon McDonald (@SMcDonaldFCO) March 25, 2020
A British diplomat stationed in Hungary has died of coronavirus, the UK foreign office says. Steven Dick, 37, was the deputy head of mission for Britain in Budapest. https://t.co/QoHBm9KT9m
— CNN International (@cnni) March 25, 2020
“So the domestic numbers are easier to quantify just based on communications with posts abroad. Obviously, this is a rapidly evolving situation, especially in the overseas environment. I can tell you we’re still at single digits here in the United States with cases – one each, two each, three each in Washington; Houston; Boston; New York; Quantico, Virginia; and Seattle. So the numbers themselves are – overseas are still double-digit. We’re looking at less than 30 scattered over 220 posts around the world, and it remains a challenge. Obviously, the – this type of outbreak, had we known earlier what the epidemiology was and had some of that data, perhaps we would have a better feel for how this was going to move across our overseas posts. But we are keeping pace with it. And again, the number at this point is less than 30.”
“In terms of the cases that we’re following from the State Department’s perspective, I don’t have the precise breakdown in front of me of how many of our direct-hire employees versus local staff. I certainly can get that information. But again, it changes so rapidly that it’s – we just want to focus on the fact that we’re doing everything we can to take care of our people overseas, and for our local staff who are so important to our operations do what we can to facilitate their getting care in the local economy. ”
“So it’s important to remember that the State Department is about 75,000 – a 75,000-person workforce overseas. We’re tracking 58 current cases in our overseas workforce, spread across the – each – one to 11 cases – I’m sorry, 33 cases is the largest number in any particular regional bureau. But at 58 cases, that’s less than one in 1,000, and that’s a direct result of aggressive actions through the Bureau of Medical Services, through the chiefs of mission at post, and implementing social distancing and telework and all the things that the department has been working so hard at over the past several weeks. Domestically, we’re tracking 16 cases in five cities, the largest at just eight. So that’s 16 cases across thousands of employees. Again, the department has taken this very seriously, has implemented just the right non-pharmaceutical interventions to keep that workforce safe.