US Immigration News

Why US Citizens And Permanent Residents Are Stuck Abroad

3.25 minute read
"Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it has been nearly impossible to obtain Consular appointments for US citizens. Local lockdowns and other social distancing protocols have prompted the US Consulates and Embassies to scale back their operations to ensure public health and safety. This reduction of visa services has not only impacted immigrant and nonimmigrant applications but also US citizens and lawful permanent residents who are living abroad."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jun 24, 2021
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Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it has been nearly impossible to obtain Consular appointments for US citizens. Local lockdowns and other social distancing protocols have prompted the US Consulates and Embassies to scale back their operations to ensure public health and safety. This reduction of visa services has not only impacted immigrant and nonimmigrant applications but also US citizens and lawful permanent residents who are living abroad. 

Almost 100,000 US citizens were unable to renew their US passports due to a scale back in operations by US embassies leading to a travel crisis for many. These Americans are stuck overseas until they can book an appointment to renew their passport. This is even more concerning for lawful permanent residents who are at risk of losing their status for staying overseas for over a year. Lawful permanent residents get denied entry to the US if they are returning from an abroad trip after more than a year unless they have a re-entry permit issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or a returning resident visa issued by a US Consulate abroad. 

These residents have simply been unable to make travel arrangements to return to the US due to the worldwide border and travel restrictions imposed due to the global pandemic. Now, unless they can schedule an appointment to get a resident visa, these permanent residents are stuck overseas at risk of losing their status. 

What Are the Current Backlog of Appointments At US Embassies and Consulates Abroad?

Almost 75% of all US Embassies and Consulates abroad have remained close as of late April 2021. The Department of State reported a backlog of almost 75,000 immigrant visa applications in January 2021. In February 2021, the backlog increased dramatically to 473,000 for immigrant visa applicants waiting for an interview appointment.

What Is the Status of Passport Renewals - Inside the US and Abroad?

If you are applying for renewal from inside the US, then you can expect a wait time of at least 10-12 weeks for processing your renewal application. Even expedite processing of renewal applications will take up to 4 to 6 weeks. However, the process to renew your passport while abroad is even more difficult because applicants can not mail their applications directly to the Department of State. They must wait for the US Embassy or Consulate to process their application.

What Can US Citizens Do If They Are Stuck Abroad?

If you are a US citizen traveling abroad and your passport is about to expire, then you should return to the US before the expiration date. This way you can avoid the hassle of renewing your passport. If your passport has already expired, then you must keep an eye on the website of your nearest US embassy or consulate. Many of these embassies have an online appointment booking system. There might be broker services available that specialized in getting visa appointments for applicants. If you need to travel urgently, then you can contact these services. However, stay diligent and research thoroughly before trusting such services to avoid any scams.

What Can Permanent Residents Do If They Are Stuck Abroad?

Since most US Consulates and Embassies are operating at limited capacity, it has become quite difficult for US permanent residents (Green Card holders) to obtain a resident visa. These residents can consider traveling to the US as soon as possible with documentary evidence to present to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to prove that the only reason they couldn’t return was due to the ongoing travel restrictions and other relevant circumstances out of their control.

If you have been prevented from boarding flights due to abandonment of status issues, then you can contact the US Customs and Border Protection Carrier Liaison Group through a supervisor of the airline or directly to explain your circumstances and resolve the issues.

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