by Leigh Ganchan
The Consulate is located in the U.S. Embassy San Salvador at Final Boulevard Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad. The website is at http://sansalvador.usembassy.gov. The consular section is regarded as a medium-sized operation. The nonimmigrant visa workload is steady, and American citizen services is growing as Salvadoran-American retirees return to the country. Space and personnel resources are somewhat strained given that immigrant visa demand has increased rapidly. The Embassy is considered to be in the top five Immigrant Visa processing posts in the Western Hemisphere.
Telephone: From El Salvador call 2113-3122, from the United States call (703) 745-5476.
Email: Visa Information Center electronic address email@example.com; or SanSalVisaInquiries@state.gov to contact the Consular Section directly.
- Visa Issuance: After the assignment of new management in 2014, the post experienced changes that eliminated some artificially restrictive criteria for nonimmigrant visa adjudication, facilitated the flow of both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants, reduced backlogs of immigrant visa cases awaiting final review, and refocused attention on resolving visa reciprocity discrepancies between the United States and El Salvador.
- Fraud Concerns: The Consulate engages in anti-fraud operations and works with General Directorate of Migration and Foreign Affairs of El Salvador (DGME), among others (see HSI below), to receive help identifying fraudulent documents and smugglers. To further the fight against fraud the US Embassy in San Salvador donated equipment to the DGME. The equipment is intended to improve the registration and control of documents, the documentation of investigations and the monitoring of immigration offenses in continued support of anti-fraud efforts. Victims of visa scams are encouraged to send their complaint to DenunciaSV@state.gov or call 2524-3030.
- Department of Homeland Security Presence at San Salvador: USCIS/ICE
USCIS San Salvador is in the Latin America, Canada and the Caribbean District and has jurisdiction over U.S. immigration matters in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama. As of February 2017, it had a Field Office Director, 1 overseas adjudications officer and 5 Locally Employed Staff (Investigator, immigration assistant, admin assistant and an immigration assistant). Individuals must make an online InfoPass appointment to visit USCIS San Salvador. USCIS San Salvador is located at the USAID Building within the embassy premises. Access is through the Consular gate located on Boulevard Santa Elena. Applicants should use the line for the DHS-USCIS office. Fingerprints are taken by appointment on Fridays only. If there is an emergency or the applicant is unable to make an online appointment because of circumstances beyond their control, the USCIS San Salvador office accepts email at: ElSalvador.USCIS@uscis.dhs.gov.
- The following may submit I-130s at this USCIS location:
- U.S. citizens residing in El Salvador filing on behalf of their spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21 or parent (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older).
- U.S. citizens residing in this field office’s jurisdiction but outside of El Salvador may file with the Department of State only if the USCIS San Salvador field office director determines that there are exceptional circumstances (https://www.uscis.gov/node/36144).
- Active Military Duty: Active duty U.S. military service members stationed permanently at a military base in this office’s jurisdiction may file this form directly with the Department of State.
- It is sufficient for petitioner to come to interivew alone, and USCIS SS will request an interview with the beneficiary, if necessary. There is no mail-in option.
- A complete explanation of the fees, required forms and documentation associated with the forms that USCIS will accept directly at this office is found at https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-uscis-office/international-offices/el-salvador-uscis-san-salvador-field-office
- SS mainly works on parole authorizations for the Central American Minor (CAM) program.
- Will only accept Form I-601 and Form I-212 directly at USCIS SS where USCIS San Salvador decides that exceptional and compelling humanitarian circumstances exist. This is very rare.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has division personnel in the Embassy who serve as liaisons to governments and law enforcement agencies across the globe and work side-by-side with foreign law enforcement on HSI investigations overseas. HSI takes part in the Visa Security Program, which is responsible for the operational requirements of Section 428 of the Homeland Security Act. Special agents in the program work in high-risk embassies to give their expertise to Department of State consular officers. The program also serves as a counterterrorism tool. The DHS website for El Salvador operations appears to indicate that an appointment can be made with HSI. There is also an Enforcement and Removal Operations division representative at this post.
Tips for the Consulate:
- Inquiry Response Time: typically, five (5) days is the general response time.
- Beneficiaries regularly appear at Consulate without the required documents largely due to the low usage of attorney assistance. For example, common missing documents include marriage certificates, birth certificates, photos, baptism records, G-325Cs, etc. Prepare clients as much as possible for better results.
Nonimmigrant Visa Procedure
- The estimated wait time to receive an interview appointment at between 3 and 12 days depending on the category, with visitor visa appointments presenting a 12 day wait.
- Once a visa is approved, Cargo Expreso delivers the passport to a Cargo Expreso passport/visa collection office for the applicant to retrieve. There are no extra fees associated with either aspect of this service. The cost for Cargo Expreso to deliver the passport is included in the visa application fee. Applicants who were issued a 221(g) letter and instructed to submit additional documentation for further processing, should submit those documents to Cargo Expreso, which will deliver the documents to the Embassy. Cargo Expreso document drop-off locations are listed here http://www.ustraveldocs.com/sv/sv-loc-documentdropoff.asp
- Expedited Appointment Requests: When an applicant experiences an unforeseen travel need (medical emergency, funeral/death, urgent business travel, students who are within 60 days of their start date), they may apply for an expedited appointment depending on availability at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Applicants are only allowed to schedule one expedited appointment request. The website provides very detailed requirements and document listshere:http://www.ustraveldocs.com/sv/sv-niv-expeditedappointment.asp. Applicants should complete a DS160 and create a visa appointment account as usual, however, if no compatible dates are available on the scheduling portal, applicants are directed to use the Expedite Request form within the portal applications.
- Officers will review the 212d waivers at the time of interview, typically not before.
- Third Country Nationals: Any person who is legally present in El Salvador may apply for a visa at the Embassy.
Immigrant Visa Procedure
- Appointments are usually scheduled for the month after all documents are submitted. Only approximately two-thirds of the immigrant visa officers can adjudicate applications at the same time due to lack of window space; this can affect the section’s ability to schedule applicants in a desirable timeframe. Visas are normally available within a few days of the interview. The IV unit is reported to respond quickly to e-mail messages.
- Medical Exam:
- Procedure: the prices established: are the same for all panel physicians (approximately $250). Consular flyer suggests that all medical examinations are performed at least one week before the date of the interview. More details here: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/March%202018-Meds_English-Spanish.pdf.
- Many immigrant visa applicants appear for interviews without having seen a panel physician. Ensure that the client is fully aware of the requirement and procedure.
Prepared by Leigh Ganchan, Shareholder at Ogletree Deakins law firm Houston, Texas.