President Joe Biden has lifted a freeze on green cards for new immigrants outside the United States that the Trump administration had put in place early in the pandemic. Claiming immigrants were a “risk to the U.S. labor market” in a pandemic-ravaged economy, the former President issued a Proclamation banning new Immigrant Visas (with limited exceptions) last April and extended it twice, most recently until March 31, 2021. A ban on most Non-Immigrant Visas, which was issued in June 2020 and extended until March 31, 2021, remains in place.
While Immigrant Visa activity may now resume, it will be slow-going and fraught with complications because of the ongoing pandemic. U.S. Embassies and Consulates continue to have limited visa appointment availability and operations and COVID-related physical presence travel bans remain in effect for many countries.
Impact of Immigrant Visa ban
Presidential Proclamation 10014 (P.P. 10014) suspended the entry of most immigrants if they were outside the country on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23, 2020) and did not already have a valid Immigrant Visa or valid travel documents. The ban virtually halted all legal immigration, separating families, harming impacted businesses and disrupting economic recovery. In FY2020, more than 120,000 family-based Immigrant Visas and thousands of Diversity Visas were lost due to the Proclamation.
If you have not been interviewed yet
If are an Immigrant Visa applicant, what you do now depends on where you were in the process. U.S. Embassies and Consulates, which suspended routine visa services last March due to the pandemic, began resuming services in phases last July. As visa services and interviewing capacity continue to expand in phases worldwide, the status of U.S. Embassy or Consulate operations in the country from which you are immigrating will control when you can schedule your interview. Visit the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding the status of its services. As all posts continue to offer emergency services, applicants who need to travel immediately due to an urgent matter should contact their U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request an emergency appointment.
If you have been interviewed
If you were previously interviewed and your petition remains valid, but you were refused a visa because of P.P. 10014, you should wait to receive instructions from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview took place. The Department of State announced it will reconsider cases that were previously refused under P.P. 10014 and inform applicants if additional information is needed.
If you hold a Diversity Visa that was issued in 2020 and it is still valid, you may now seek immediate entry to the U.S. Individuals whose DV-2020 visas have expired will generally not be issued replacement visas. However, those who received Diversity Visas in 2020 as a result of orders in Gomez v. Trump may travel to the U.S. on an expired visa, since the court ordered the government to treat these visas as though they were issued on P.P. 10014’s revocation date (February 24, 2021). As the court did not specify how long the visas would be considered valid and as future modifications are possible, affected individuals are advised to travel to the U.S. as soon as is practical.
If you applied for a DV-2020 but your visa was not issued before September 30, 2020 for any reason, including P.P. 10014, your application will not be reconsidered. DV-2020 applicants were only eligible for a visa through September 30, 2020 (the end of the fiscal year). Applicants for FY 2021 Diversity Visas (DV-2021) should wait to be notified of their interview date, which will depend on the phased resumption of visa services.
Geographic COVID-19 restrictions
COVID-related restrictions barring foreign nationals who were physically present in certain countries for 14 days prior to seeking entry to the U.S. are still in effect. Countries and regions on the list currently include the Schengen Area of Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, and the People’s Republic of China. Spouses and children of U.S. citizens who are seeking IR/CR-1, IR/CR-2, IR/IH-3 or IR/IH-4 visas and spouses or minor children of green card holders who are seeking F2A visas are exempt from the geographic COVID-19 travel restrictions. However, other Immigrant Visa applicants who are coming from these countries must spend two weeks in a country that is not on the list before entering the U.S., unless they are eligible for and are granted a national interest exception.
Note that the Secretary of State has granted a national interest exception for DV-2020 applicants who hold a valid Immigrant Visa and are subject to the COVID-19 geographic travel restrictions.
Barst Mukamal & Kleiner’s immigration lawyers provide comprehensive immigration law services. Clients with questions about their Immigrant Visa or Non-Immigrant Visa applications are encouraged to contact a Barst attorney. For general inquiries or to set up a consultation, please visit https://barstlaw.com/contact-us/.