Back to the Future: White House Restricts Travel to the United States From 8 Countries Due to New COVID-19 Variant

On November 26, 2021, President Joe Biden issued a presidential proclamation prohibiting travel into the United States for travelers who were physically present in eight countries in southern Africa (Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe), beginning on Monday, November 29, 2021. The restrictions, which prohibit travel from these eight African countries, come approximately three weeks after the White House relaxed prior location-based travel restrictions, moving to vaccination status-based travel restrictions on November 8, 2021.

USCIS Settlement Agreement Provides Some Relief to H-4 and L-2 Spouse EAD Renewal Applications

On November 10, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) settled the class action lawsuit Shergill v. Mayorkas. The settlement agreement will update USCIS policy related to certain H-4 and L-2 spousal Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications. Notably, the settlement agreement provides for an automatic extension of employment authorization for H-4 spouses who have timely filed for a renewal of the EAD work card via Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, if given criteria are met.

White House Permits Air Travel Into the United States for Fully Vaccinated Nonimmigrant Travelers, Beginning November 8, 2021

On October 25, 2021, the White House issued a presidential proclamation revoking the following proclamations with country-specific COVID-19 travel restrictions: Proclamation 9984 (China); Proclamation 9992 (Iran); Proclamation 10143 (Brazil, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom); and Proclamation 10199 (India).

Visa Bulletin for October 2021 Shows Only Minor Advances for Employment-Based Visa Applications

On September 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of State issued the Visa Bulletin for October 2021, which showed minor advancement on priority for backlogged filings of employment-based (EB) immigrant visa (green card) beneficiaries. The Visa Bulletin for October 2021 had been eagerly anticipated, in part due to substantial advancements seen in October 2020 that had permitted thousands of employment-based foreign nationals to file Form I-485 applications for adjustment of status to permanent residence.

White House Announces Plan to Remove COVID-19–Related Travel Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated International Travelers

The White House announced on September 20, 2021, that beginning in “early November” 2021, the Biden administration would remove restrictions on international travelers who are seeking to fly to the United States, provided that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

USCIS Updates COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements Policy for Green Card Applicants

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that, effective October 1, 2021, applicants for permanent residence (i.e., green card applicants) who are “subject to the immigration medical examination must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the civil surgeon can complete … [the] examination and sign Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.” USCIS stated that this requirement “applies prospectively to all Forms I-693 signed by the civil surgeons” on or after October 1, 2021.

CDC Issues New COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Green Card Applicants

Effective October 1, 2021, and in compliance with new instructions from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for applicants for lawful permanent residence (i.e., green card status). On August 17, 2021, the CDC announced in guidance for civil surgeons that the new requirement will apply to persons who are seeking to adjust their immigration status within the United States as well as those applying for an immigrant visa at U.S. consulates abroad.

UK Graduate Visa Application Opened on 1 July 2021

Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and, therefore, the end of free movement, there have been questions as to how and when a postgraduate visa would be available to help international students currently studying in the UK. In September 2019, the UK government announced plans for a post-study work visa for international students as part of a new points-based immigration system.

U.S. Travel Restrictions and Delayed Consular Operations Persist as Pandemic Continues

On July 22, 2021, the Biden administration extended travel restrictions affecting travel between U.S., Canadian, and Mexican land ports of entry until August 21, 2021. In so doing, the Biden administration confirmed that it is “maintaining cross-border activities with Canada and Mexico that support health security, trade, commerce, supply security, and other essential activities while taking critical steps to protect [U.S.] citizens and to curb spread of the virus.”

USCIS Conducts Second Random Selection From Previously Submitted FY 2022 H-1B Cap Registrations

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducted an initial random selection for the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B cap in March 2021, including for beneficiaries eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS used historical data to estimate the number of registration selections required to meet the annual quota of approximately 85,000 H-1B visas under the regular cap and 20,000 H-1B visas under the advanced degree or “U.S. master’s” cap. Accordingly, out of the 308,613 registrations submitted for the FY 2022 cap lottery, USCIS made 87,500 selections.

Canada to Ease Travel Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

The Government of Canada has announced the first phase of its plan to ease border restrictions for travelers entering Canada. Under the new policy, travelers whose vaccination status meets the criteria of “fully vaccinated” will be exempt from quarantine restrictions, mandatory hotel stays pending test results, and day-eight testing, provided all conditions are met.

USCIS Releases Data with Official Number of FY2022 H-1B Cap Registrations

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released data showing the total number of annual H-1B lottery registrations received for the upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2022. Under the electronic registration process, now in its second year of operation, petitioning employers were already aware of the annual quota (“cap”) being met, with registration selection notices being released in late March 2021. Yet, many employers were eagerly awaiting verification of the total registrations received by USCIS for the upcoming fiscal year.

100 Days of the Biden Administration, Part I: Key Labor and Employment Policy Developments

April 30, 2021, marked President Joe Biden’s 100th day in office, and his administration has wasted little time advancing its policy priorities. At this moment, the administration is focusing most of its attention on repealing much of the policy accomplishments of the previous administration but can be expected to advance its own proposals in short time. Additionally, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are looking for ways around the U.S. Senate’s legislative filibuster in order to advance their ambitious legislative agenda. Below is a very brief outline of the major labor and employment legislative actions of President Biden’s first 100 days.

U.S. Embassy in Moscow Announces Significant Reduction of Consular Services

U.S. Embassy Moscow recently announced plans to reduce its consular workforce by 75 percent and significantly reduce its consular services. The announcement comes in response to the Russian government’s move to ban the U.S. Embassy “from employing foreign nationals in any capacity,” actions taken in retaliation to new U.S. sanctions imposed over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and the country’s involvement in the computer hack of top U.S. government agencies.

Biden Administration Extends U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada COVID-19 Border Restrictions Through May 21, 2021

On April 19, 2021, the Biden administration extended travel restrictions along the land ports of entry between the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico through May 21, 2021. The border restrictions were set to expire on April 21, 2021. The restrictions, which have been in effect since March 21, 2020, specifically prohibit all “non-essential” travel at these land ports of entry to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Delays Persist at U.S. Consulates Worldwide, Even in Wake of Biden Administration’s Lifting of Various Visa Suspensions

On March 31, 2021, the Trump administration’s Proclamation 10052, which had suspended the entry of certain H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa holders and their dependents to the United States, expired. In addition, on February 24, 2021, the Biden administration lifted Proclamation 10014, which had suspended the entry of certain immigrant visa holders through March 31, 2021. Despite these policy developments, applicants for nonimmigrant work visas and immigrant visas can still expect continued delays in obtaining visas due to COVID-19–related issues.

USCIS to Suspend Biometrics Requirement for Certain Nonimmigrant Dependent Applications

On May 3, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) acting associate director of the Service Center Operations Directorate, Connie L. Nolan, indicated in a court filing that USCIS is finalizing a policy that will temporarily suspend the requirement to submit biometrics for certain individuals filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

COVID-19 and the Form I-9: Preparing for the End of Remote Document Verification

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized U.S. employers with employees who are taking physical proximity precautions to remotely inspect identity and work authorization documents when completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, rather than review original documents in person.

Biden Administration Issues Restrictions on Travel From India

On April 30, 2021, the Biden administration issued a proclamation that implements restrictions for travelers from India, due to concerns regarding COVID-19. Pursuant to the proclamation, noncitizens who have been physically present in India within 14 days of travel to the United States will be barred entry, unless eligible for an exception. The restrictions are scheduled to take effect on May 4, 2021, at 12:01 am eastern daylight time.

USCIS Reinstates ‘Prior Deference’ Policy in Adjudicating Extensions of Visa Matters Involving Same Parties and Facts

On April 27, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued updated policy guidance “instructing officers to give deference to prior determinations when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts unless there was a material error, material change, or new material facts.” This USCIS policy update reverts back to a long-standing policy originally established in 2004.

Navigating the Form I-9 for TPS and DED: Complex Verification Requirements

Over the past three months, the Biden administration has expanded immigration benefits for foreign nationals on humanitarian grounds. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) are two such humanitarian benefits that permit certain foreign nationals to live and work in the United States with government-issued employment authorization documents.

Biden Administration’s Current U.S. Travel Restrictions and Revised National Interest Exception Criteria

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in numerous presidential proclamations restricting travel and entry into the United States. Likewise, since the pandemic began, the criteria for “national interest exceptions” (NIEs) has also evolved. On March 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of State issued updated criteria for NIEs relating to certain travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland. Given the frequency of the changes, it can be difficult to track the current state of these matters. The following information is a summary of the latest updates with regard to U.S. travel restrictions.