If you urgently need a U.S. Visa for a medical emergency or if you need a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa but there is no U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country how do you get one? People who seek to file a U.S. visa application as nonimmigrants are often allowed to apply for their visas at any U.S. embassy or consulate; however, that is not advisable. By contrast anyone who wishes to enter the United States as a new permanent resident will be required to get an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country or last place of residence. This stipulation may cause difficulty to citizens of countries where the U.S. has no diplomatic presence or where the U.S. diplomatic mission has limited or suspended activities. This may happen for many reasons like natural catastrophes, geographic concern, diplomatic issues, security concerns amongst others.
Thankfully, the U.S. State Department (the agency that oversees U.S. visa processings) can aid immigrant visa applicants from such countries, particularly by processing their applications at U.S. embassies or consulates in neighboring countries (although restricted in-state or country services may still be available, sometimes through third-country embassies).
The State Department sometimes also maintains special websites as “virtual” diplomatic missions to countries or territories where it has no physical posts. These webpages often provide essential information for prospective visa applicants. Nevertheless, they do not usually enable remote visa services or otherwise substitute for actual embassies or consulates.
Territories or Countries with No Consular Relations to the U.S.
Diplomatic relations are usually extended by the U.S. to countries whose sovereignty it lawfully acknowledges and it also withholds diplomatic presence from territories with which it does not benefit from normal diplomatic relations. There are some exceptions.
Countries Supported by the U.S.
In 2015, the U.S. government started reestablishing direct diplomatic relations with Cuba, although for several years an indirect presence (an “Interest Section”) had been maintained in the country’s capital through the Swiss Embassy.
Various other countries still hold no official diplomatic relationship with the U.S including:
- Iran and
- North Korea
Citizens of all three countries have nonetheless been allowed to process their U.S. immigrant visa applications in nearby countries such as:
- India for citizens of Bhutan
- Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Armenia for citizens of Iran and
- China for citizens of North Korea
So, for instance, immigrant visa applicants from Iran would be required to not only appear for an interview but also to complete other application-related requirements (such as a medical examination) in one of the three designated countries. Take note that each post may have different scheduling processes when it comes to interviews for nonimmigrant visas.
Territories Not Recognized by the U.S.
Consulates or Embassies are sometimes maintained in territories that the U.S. government does not for one reason or another, officially recognize as sovereign territory. For example, such has been the case in the city of Jerusalem. In other situations, a virtual presence may be maintained without a physical post, for example the U.S. Virtual Consulate in Gaza, which has served as a platform for outreach to the Palestinian territory. (Palestinians who remain stateless can process their immigrant visa applications at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem).
Other territories that are contested by the U.S. government have in place special organizations to provide U.S. consular and other quasi-diplomatic services. Such an example is Taiwan, an island claimed by China and no longer validated as independent by the U.S. after 1979. The U.S. has nonetheless continued after that date to offer visa services inside the territory through a special non-profit organization known as the: American Institute in Taiwan.
Countries with U.S. Diplomatic Relations But No U.S. Diplomatic Presence
Certain countries enjoy full diplomatic relations with the U.S., but where, primarily for reasons of geographic convenience, the U.S. does not maintain any diplomatic presence. These include:
- The African state of Guinea-Bissau
- Saint Lucia and other small Caribbean islands
Countries with U.S. Diplomatic Presence, But Suspended or Restricted Visa Services
Ultimately, there are countries that have U.S. official diplomatic presence but due to country and international conditions (natural disasters, political conflict or insecurity) visa services have been suspended or restricted. Take for example, immigrant visa pursuants from Yemen are likely to appear for an interview at the U.S. embassy in Egypt. This can be problematic for the Yemenis as they will also need a visa to enter Egypt. (In some cases, the U.S. government has approved requests for case transfers to Djibouti and other nations).
Correspondingly, foreigners from Libya have recently processed at the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia, Syrians go to the U.S. Embassy in Jordan and Somalis processed their U.S. visa applications in Kenya, Jordan and Djibouti.
Ask an Immigration Attorney to Help You
If your country does not have a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and you need to process a U.S. visa application, ask a lawyer to help you. It can be much more difficult having to attend an interview in a country not your own. Call the Gambacorta law office at 847 908 4913 for guidance and our team will gladly assist you.