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US suspends all routine visa services due to virus

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 05, 2020 WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: The U.S. Department of State is seen on January 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tensions are high in the middle east after a U.S. airstrike in Iraq killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military leader. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP – The US said on March 20, 2020, it was suspending all routine visa services around the world due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The State Department said in a travel advisory US embassies and consulates would still consider emergency visas if they have adequate staff. (Photo by MARK WILSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

The United States said Friday it was suspending all routine visa services around the world due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

US embassies and consulates will still consider emergency visas if they have adequate staff, the State Department said.

“In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all US embassies and consulates,” a travel advisory said.

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The State Department had already said it was suspending visa issuance at most posts overseas. But Friday’s order was global and, while temporary, there was no date set for services to resume.

The suspension will not in itself affect travellers, largely from Western and wealthy Asian nations, who can come to the United States without visas.

However, the United States has temporarily halted arrivals of most Europeans in a move to halt the spread of the pandemic.

US embassies will still be open and available to assist US citizens, the State Department said.

The State Department has nonetheless urged all Americans overseas to come home if commercial flights are available due to limited assistance available and travel bottlenecks created by the pandemic.

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