Many thousands of people are in the middle of the visa process. That includes many of our clients. Others are preparing to apply for a visa. How could Donald Trump’s presidency impact the process for you? I will answer that question from the standpoint of family based visas, since that is the majority of the work we do at Sound Immigration.
Family-based visas involve two federal agencies.
As you probably understand, family-based visas involve at least two federal agencies. First, an I-130 petition is filed with Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After I-130 petition is approved, the case does to the Department of State (DOS). For most family-based cases the file will be transferred to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), though fiancé(e) (I-129F) cases go straight to the U.S. consulate.
As President, Donald Trump will of course head all federal agencies. He will be in charge of directing the policies adopted by those agencies. Still, he is required to do so in a way that complies with existing laws and the constitution.
Processing with USCIS is unlikely to be impacted.
In the near term, it is unlikely that USCIS will substantially change the way that it processes I-130 petitions. Short of telling USCIS to “stop processing I-130 petitions” – an order that could be unlawful – it is unclear that Trump could do much to slow down or step petition review. Staffing for I-130 adjudications is funded by petition fees, not by tax dollars, so even de-funding USCIS would not necessarily slow processing times. The availability of I-130 petitions reflects laws passed by congress, which Trump cannot simply ignore.
In the long term, however, it is highly probably that Trump and a Republican congress will seek to enact new immigration laws. Those laws could further restrict the availability of family-based visas. If you are considering pursuing a family based visa – without a doubt – now is the time to act.
Processing with the Department of State could be slowed or effectively stopped.
The possibility of delay is more serious with the Department of State. Throughout his campaign, Trump voiced concerns that security checks for fiancé(e) and other visas are not strict enough. He also threatened to completely shut off immigration for individuals of Muslim faith, or from Muslim-majority countries.
The Trump administration could possibly implement additional security screenings that will substantially increase visa processing time. New policies could make it particularly difficult for visa applicants who are either Muslim, believed to be Muslim, or from Muslim-majority countries.
Regardless of whether these type of security protocols were ultimately upheld by the courts, they could slow the visa process for everyone in the near future. For now it is unclear whether Trump will take any steps in this direction, but visa applicants should understand that it is a possibility.
What should I do if I have not applied yet?
If you are considering applying for a visa, now is the time. There is almost no chance that the process will become easier in the next four years, and there is a real possibility things will get worse. Even if you apply now, your application could be negatively impacted later. But the best you can do is take prompt action now.
What if I have already applied for a visa?
If you have already started the visa process, the best you can do now is to do everything right the first time. Your goal should be to make it through the process as quickly as possible, and any mistake risks further delay. Likewise, if you are waiting for an I-130 approval, you can start now to prepare the documents and information you will need at the DOS visa stage.