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Covid-19 Forces US to Suspend Global Visa Services

Thousands of travelers are likely to face disruption and inconvenience after the United States said it was suspending all routine visa services as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the coronavirus, the State Department said.

The State Department spokeswoman did not clarify which or how many countries are halting services.

In Greece, the US embassy in Athens announced that it would be “keeping with Greek government guidelines on social distancing”, allowing only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services. All consular services will be suspended at the Consulate General in Thessaloniki as of today (March 19).

The premises of the US Embassy in Athens. Photo Source: @US Embassy Athens

US missions in other countries, including South Korea, South Africa, Germany and Spain also announced that they were either stopping or significantly reducing services.

“Embassies and consulates in these countries will cancel all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments as of March 18, 2020,” the spokeswoman said.

The State Department spokeswoman confirmed that US missions abroad will continue to provide emergency visa services “as resources allow”.

“These Embassies will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time,” she said.

According to the State Department, the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will remain unaffected.

Photo Source: @eody

In Greece, the US embassy issued the following Covid-19-related guidelines:

  • Consult the CDC website for the most up-to-date information on Covid-19,
  • If you have coronavirus symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 1135. Do not go directly to an emergency department, doctor’s office, or clinic,
  • Visit the embassy webpage on Covid-19 for information on conditions in Greece,
  • For information on what you can do to reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19, please see the CDC’s latest recommendations,
  • Visit the Covid-19 crisis page on travel.state.gov for the latest information regarding foreign countries’ quarantine requirements and other global impacts,
  • Have a plan to depart from Greece that does not rely on US government assistance,
  • Check with your airlines or cruise lines regarding any updated information about your travel plans and/or restrictions,
  • Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the latest travel restrictions affecting travel to the U.S.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
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