The Biden Administration Allows Nonimmigrant Visa Ban to Expire
On March 31, 2021, the Presidential Proclamation restricting the entry of certain nonimmigrants, including H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 travelers, into the United States, has been allowed to expire by President Biden. It has been widely reported that President Biden will not renew this June 2020 Presidential Proclamation, put in place by the Trump Administration.
Background: Nonimmigrant Visa Ban Issued by Trump Administration
On June 22, 2020, then-President Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation restricting the entry of certain nonimmigrants into the United States. Specifically, this restriction applied to H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-2 travelers who were outside the United States and not in possession of a valid visa or travel document, as of June 24, 2020.
On December 31, 2020, before leaving office, then-President Trump extended this travel ban through March 31, 2021. As a result, many individuals were either prevented from applying for a nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States or were required to request a National Interest Exception (“NIE”) from their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Notably, these NIE requests are increasingly difficult to come by.
Nonimmigrant Visa Ban Allowed to Expire by Biden Administration
Last week, this nonimmigrant visa ban was allowed to expire by President Biden and a number of sources have reported he does not plan to renew it. This means those individuals who were subject to the nonimmigrant visa ban may now schedule a nonimmigrant visa appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate and apply for their nonimmigrant visa.
Although this is big news and a sign of progress, unfortunately the practical effects are still bleak. Consular operations around the world are still devastatingly limited—due to local restrictions related to COVID-19 many U.S. embassies and consulates are operating with a reduced workforce and are offering very limited appointments. Additionally, the appointment availability may be impacted at consular posts for the foreseeable future as they work to clear significant immigrant visa backlogs. Importantly, COVID-19 related travel bans are still in place individuals who are physically present in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and the Schengen area of Europe.
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