ON February 24, 2021, Pres. Biden revoked Trump’s immigration ban for immigrant visa applicants, which was scheduled to expire March 31, 2021. What this means is that, subject to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing, embassies should now start scheduling people for their immigrant visa interviews immediately. (The ban is still in effect for non-immigrants, such as H-1B, L-1, etc.)
As a recap, Trump issued “immigration bans,” in April and June 2020, and extended both in December 2020. The first, proclamation, 10014, suspended the entry of immigrants who were petitioned by family members and employers. The Second proclamation,10052, suspended entry of non-immigrants applying for certain work visas, such as H1B, L-1, and H2B. Then, proclamation 10131 in December 2020, just as Trump was to leave office, extended both bans through March 31, 2021.
In Pres. Biden’s proclamation revoking Trump’s earlier immigration ban, he states that the Trump immigration ban “does not advance the interests of the United States. To the contrary, it harms the United States, including preventing certain family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.” Pres. Biden further found that the entry of these applicants “is not detrimental to the interests of the United States,” as Trump had originally declared.
He also instructed the Secretary of State, Secretary of Labor, and Secretary of Homeland Security to review all their policies, orders, and the like that had been issued as a result of Trump’s immigration ban, and revise their guidance “consistent with the policy set forth in this proclamation.”
With Biden’s revocation of these bans, applicants for immigrant visas abroad will not have to wait until April 2021 before they can be scheduled for interviews — instead, embassies can already start scheduling now.
However, I think it is wise to wait for further instructions or guidance on how to go about scheduling or rescheduling interviews.
1. There might be changes in the requirements: it could be that new medical exams or police clearance are required because existing ones have expired.
2. New application fees may be required in submitting new immigrant visa applications.
3. There are also other administrative and operational considerations. For example, if a person was already interviewed, but the ban was imposed before their visa was issued, or their visa expired, do they need to be scheduled for another interview?
4. Even though the immigration ban has been revoked, the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, and embassies are not operating at full capacity, and may not be able to schedule interviews as quickly as we would like. Remember, it’s been almost been a year since people have been scheduled for visa interviews, so there is definitely a backlog.
5. Also, as the website of the U.S. embassy in Manila reminds us, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older, including U.S. citizens, must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Or, they may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. So even if the visa is issued, the person will need a COVID-19 test to enter the U.S. COVID-19 testing is not as easily accessible, depending on which country the person is coming from.
6. Public charge, affidavit of support, evaluating if the sponsor received public benefits, age and health of beneficiary and if they are likely to rely on public assistance, are still the subject of litigation.
I know the immigration ban has affected so many people. Every day I hear my clients express their frustration of being outside the U.S. waiting for a long time for their visas or longing to be reunited with their families. I understand how frustrating this can be, and this is why I write these columns, not only to keep you updated and informed, but also because I am dedicated in helping my clients achieve their American Dream.