State Department is expediting visas for relatives of Surfside condo collapse

·2 min read

U.S. State Department officials are actively expediting visas for family members of victims and survivors of the Surfside condo collapse.

The efforts to prioritize and speed up visa applications have been a team effort from city and county governments, as well as U.S. consulate and U.S. embassies. From there, requests have been referred to congressional offices, which have then coordinated with the State Department.

Though visa records are confidential under U.S. law. and the Department of State would only say the agency is prioritizing the processing of “urgent” visa applications with “extreme humanitarian considerations,” a federal source with knowledge of the situation told the Miami Herald the condo collapse in Surfside has fallen under that category and will be processed first.

So far, at least 36 people from Latin American nations — including Colombia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Cuba, Chile, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Argentina — are among those reported missing by friends, officials and family following the partial collapse of a residential building in Surfside on early Thursday morning, highlighting the international reach of the tragedy in a region that serves as a link between the United States and Latin America. It’s still unknown if there are victims or survivors from other foreign countries.

McKinley Lewis, communications director for U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, confirmed the push for expedited visas.

“We are working directly with the State Department to ensure quick processing of visa applications. Senator Scott’s office has already helped several families expedite their travel and is very appreciative of the responsiveness State has shown in helping those affected by this terrible tragedy,” Lewis said.

A spokesman for South Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office said her “office has dealt with small number of such expedited requests, and anticipates other congressional offices received some as well.”

Since the pandemic started in March 2020, visa application processing was significantly stalled. As of May 25, the immigrant visa backlog was at more than half a million, compared to the 61,000 applicants in 2019, federal data shows.

The Miami Herald is working on compiling a list of all foreign nationals impacted by the collapse. If you’d like to share your story, please email Immigration Reporter Monique O. Madan at mmadan@miamiherald.com or call 305-376-2108.

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