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State Department Halts Routine Visa Services Worldwide

The State Department says it is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates because of the coronavirus.

Announced Friday, the move comes one day after the State Department issued its highest travel warning, instructing U.S. citizens not to travel internationally and urging those who are overseas to return home or be prepared to shelter in place.

Routine U.S. visa services were already suspended in some countries, such as South Korea and Spain, that are battling a severe outbreak of the coronavirus. Now that suspension is worldwide, the State Department says that if resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services. Those types of services may be in high demand for U.S. citizens stranded overseas and trying to get back home. The number of international flights has been drastically reduced, and an increasing number of countries are closing their borders.

There was growing criticism that the Trump administration was not doing enough to help evacuate U.S. citizens stranded in countries such as Peru, Morocco, Tunisia and Guatemala. The U.S. Embassy in Morocco announced that specially chartered flights were organized on Friday to help get U.S. citizens and residents out of the country, which closed its borders March 14.

The State Department also says it is canceling all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments and that the overseas missions will resume routine visa service as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.

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