State Dept.: Visa requests moving ahead
TOKYO — About 100 pending immigrant visa applications filed in Tokyo and Naha have been cleared to the next level for review, according to the State Department, movement that could start to ease the worries of military families with orders back to the United States.
All told, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the consulate in Naha collected about 760 immigrant visa applications after July 27, the day a new law changed the way immigration requests are reviewed, according to an e-mail late Wednesday from State Department spokeswoman Kate Goggin.
Some of those 760 applications are for the foreign spouses of U.S. servicemembers, who are based in Japan and face rotations to their next assignment in the States.
Previously, embassies played a role in passing applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the final arbiter in the process. That process abruptly stopped in late January as government officials deciphered the implications of last summer’s Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
The sudden change left some military families in limbo about the status of their applications, a situation that both State Department and immigration officials say they are working to improve.
Goggin also wrote that visas already issued to immigrants remain valid, even if the visa stamp came after July 27.
And, she added, State Department officials recognize servicemembers’ frustrations in the telephone charges that come with each phone call to the embassy. These toll calls are for visa customers and are a worldwide policy.
Instead, she suggested checking the embassy’s Web site for additional information. As applications are approved, each individual will be contacted to schedule an interview, she wrote. The Web site is: http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/.