Articles Posted in COVID Visa Ban

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With a new year comes new travel restrictions. In this blog post, we share with you a recent announcement published in the Federal Register by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

CBP has just released a notice of action informing the public of a brand-new temporary travel restriction that will apply to certain unvaccinated travelers seeking to enter into the United States along U.S. land ports of entry, including ferry terminals (‘‘land POEs’’) with Mexico and Canada.


What is this new travel restriction all about?


According to the new directive announced on January 24th, land ports of entry along the United States-Mexico border and United States-Canada border will continue to suspend normal operations and will allow processing for entry into the United States of only those noncitizen non-LPRs who are ‘‘fully vaccinated against COVID–19’’ and can provide ‘‘proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID–19’’ upon request, as those terms are defined under Presidential Proclamation and the CDC’s Order.


Who will the restriction apply to?


These restrictions will apply to non-citizens who are neither U.S. nationals nor lawful permanent residents (‘‘noncitizen non-LPRs’’) with limited exceptions.

Under the temporary restrictions, DHS will allow processing for entry into the United States of only those noncitizen non-LPRs who are fully vaccinated against COVID–19 and can provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID–19 upon request.


When do these travel restrictions go into effect?


These restrictions went into effect at 12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on January 22, 2022 and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on April 21, 2022, unless amended or rescinded prior to that time.


Are there any exceptions for unvaccinated travelers?


This travel restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents of the United States, or American Indians who have a right by statute to pass the borders of, or enter into, the United States.

In addition, the following exceptions to these restrictions have been authorized for the following categories of noncitizen non-LPRs:

  • Certain categories of persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel as specified in the CDC Order;
  • persons under 18 years of age;
  • certain participants in certain COVID–19 vaccine trials as specified in the CDC Order;
  • persons with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID– 19 vaccine as specified in the CDC Order;
  • persons issued a humanitarian or emergency exception by the Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • persons with valid nonimmigrant visas (excluding B–1 [business] or B–2 [tourism] visas) who are citizens of a country with limited COVID–19 vaccine availability, as specified in the CDC Order;
  • members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age) as specified in the CDC Order; and,
  • persons whose entry would be in the U.S. national interest, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

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In today’s blog post, we share some interesting Question and Answer responses recently provided by the Department of State’s Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs (L/CA), in a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The responses below provide some important insight into current immigration policies and procedures taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we summarize the most interesting questions covered during the January 20 meeting:


Department of State/AILA Liaison Committee Meeting


January 20, 2022 Q & A Highlights


Q: What role do Consular sections assume when determining whether an individual is exempt from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine requirement to gain entry to the U.S.?

A: Consular sections’ role in the process is to ensure that an individual’s request for a [vaccine] exception is filled out in full, and to transmit those requests to the CDC.


Q: If consular posts are involved in transmitting information in support of a humanitarian exception to CDC, what is the process, if any, for making such a request of a consular post outside the context of a visa interview?

A: Travelers should contact the consular section of the nearest embassy or consulate using the information provided on that embassies or consulate’s website


Q: What is the Department of State doing to alleviate the substantial backlogs created by the slowdown of operations at Consular posts and Embassies worldwide?

A: The Department is planning to hire foreign service officers above attrition in FY 2022. The majority will be assigned to a consular position after initial training. Additionally, the Department continues to recruit Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) Consular Professionals. With very limited LNA hiring in FY 2020 and a pause on LNA hiring in FY 2021 due to CA’s budgetary constraints, Consular Affairs plans to hire more than 60 LNAs in FY 2022

Consular Affairs is working with State’s office of Global Talent Management to ramp up hiring in FY 2022, but many posts will not see these new officers until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023, particularly for officers assigned to positions requiring language training. Increased hiring will not have an immediate effect on reducing current visa wait times. Because local pandemic restrictions continue to impact a significant number of our overseas posts, extra staff alone is not sufficient to combat wait times for interviews.


Q: Can Consular Affairs please advise regarding efforts to resume routine consular services?

A: Consular sections abroad must exercise prudence given COVID’s continuing unpredictability. The emergence of the Omicron variant has prompted countries to reevaluate plans to relax travel bans, thereby leading consular sections abroad to recalibrate plans to resume services. Some posts have already fully resumed routine services. Others, in an abundance of caution and out of concern for the health of both consular staff and clientele, are slowly reintroducing some routine services.

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While the global Coronavirus pandemic rages on, the government is taking careful steps to manage the ongoing health crisis while also opening the country to fully vaccinated international travelers.

Last week, President Biden made the decision to rescind Presidential Proclamation 10315, an order that previously suspended and restricted the entry of foreign nationals, who were physically present within any of the following countries, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States:

  • Republic of Botswana
  • Kingdom of Eswatini
  • Kingdom of Lesotho
  • Republic of Malawi
  • Republic of Mozambique
  • Republic of Namibia
  • Republic of South Africa, and
  • Republic of Zimbabwe

Accordingly, as of December 31, 2021, Proclamation 10315 has been officially rescinded.


Background


President Biden had previously issued Proclamation 10315 to guard against the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United States. Our readers may recall that on November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) first reported the emergence of Omicron as a variant of concern. Thereafter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that the government restrict the entry of foreign nationals from regions where the variant had been reported. The above countries were identified as regions where the variant was spreading, and the government swiftly issued the Proclamation temporarily barring such travelers from entering.

According to the Biden administration, the government has now learned more about the Omicron variant and has taken appropriate mitigation efforts to combat its spread. The CDC has recommended that the government lift the travel restrictions previously imposed by Order 10315, because scientists have determined that vaccination against COVID-19 provides adequate protection against the new variant.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some breaking news. On Tuesday, December 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its international travel guidance to require all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States starting today, Monday, December 6, 2021.

The CDC has also published a new webpage that summarizes the international travel requirements and recommendations for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Immigrants. Another webpage also provides information for non-U.S. Citizens, non-U.S. immigrants traveling by air to the United States.


International Air Travel Guidance for non-U.S. Citizens and non-U.S. immigrants


Starting today, Monday December 6, 2021, all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States.

Additionally, non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants (those who are not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States by plane. Only limited exceptions apply.

Travelers are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when traveling to the United States by air.

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth are also required in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) traveling into, within, or out of the United States and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports).


What if I am not fully vaccinated?


Non-citizens who are nonimmigrants and seeking to enter the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States from a foreign country.

If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will NOT be allowed to board a flight to the United States, unless you meet the limited criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Order.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope that you had a restful Thanksgiving holiday break with your friends and family members.

In this blog post, we share with you some unfortunate new developments relating to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that will restrict the entry of foreign nationals from certain countries to the United States.

Just as the United States was beginning to ease restrictions on international air travel for the fully vaccinated starting November 8th, the world has once again been thrown into turmoil as a new Coronavirus variant known as “omicron” has been revealed with new cases emerging throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the Netherlands.


President Biden Signs New Travel Ban Proclamation Amid Omicron Variant impacting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi


President Biden and his Chief Medical Adviser were briefed on the unfolding situation, and on Friday, November 26, 2021, President Biden signed Presidential Proclamation, “A Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019,” that restricts the entry of non- U.S. Citizens who were physically present within the Republic of South Africa, Republic of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Republic of Namibia, Kingdom of Lesotho, Kingdom of Eswatini, the Republic of Mozambique, and Republic of Malawi, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States.

The new travel ban becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on Monday, November 29, 2021, as part of a global effort to reduce the spread of the omicron variant to the United States. The Proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 am eastern standard time on November 29th.

While no confirmed cases of the variant have yet been announced in the United States, the Chief Medical Adviser has explained that its eventual spread will be inevitable. The new travel ban indicates that the Republic of South Africa informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the new Omicron variant on November 24, 2021, and two days thereafter the WHO announced the new “Omicron” variant as a cause for concern that has been increasing in almost all provinces in the Republic of South Africa. Based on this information, and the lack of genomic sequencing throughout Southern Arica, the government has imposed the new travel restrictions from the named regions.


How long will the travel ban last?


At this time, we do not know how long the bans will remain in place, however it is very likely that they will remain until the Biden administration believes it is safe to rescind the travel bans. As has occurred with the previous COVID-19 geographic travel bans, it is highly likely that the new travel ban will remain in place until it is determined that current vaccinations approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are effective against the emerging Omicron variant. The Proclamation indicates that it will remain in effect until terminated by the President. Within 30 days, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must recommend whether the President should continue, modify, or terminate the Proclamation.

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In this blog post, we share with you a roundup of new immigration updates for the week starting with some important reminders.


U.S. Welcomes International Air Travel from Fully Vaccinated Starting Monday November 8th


As we have reported on our blog, the Biden administration has issued a new Presidential Proclamation that rescinds the geographic COVID-19 related travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international air travelers to the United States. The new Proclamation will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, November 8, 2021. Travelers will need to be prepared to provide documentary evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 (both doses are required for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 3 days of boarding. Certain narrow exceptions to the vaccine requirement have been made in the Presidential Proclamation, however it is important to note that even those who fall under an exception must become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of entry to the United States unless any of the following apply.

  • the noncitizen’s intended stay is sufficiently brief, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • the noncitizen is one for whom, given their age, requiring vaccination would be inappropriate, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • the noncitizen has participated or is participating in certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated for the noncitizen, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • the noncitizen is described in section 3(b)(i) or 3(b)(ii) of this proclamation and has previously received a COVID-19 vaccine that is authorized or approved by the noncitizen’s country of nationality, as determined by the Director of the CDC, in consultation with the Secretary of State; or
  • the Director of the CDC otherwise determines that COVID-19 vaccination is not warranted for the noncitizen.

To read the complete details regarding the Presidential Proclamation 10294 please click here.


U.S. will also open the land border to fully vaccinated non-essential travelers from Canada and Mexico starting November 8


In similar fashion, also on Monday, November 8, 2021, the United States will be opening its land border and ferry ports of entry to fully vaccinated nonessential travelers from Canada and Mexico. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. The entry of individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will continue to be restricted for non-essential travelers.

For more information please click here.


Diversity Visa Lottery Registration for FY 2023 closes on Tuesday November 9th


As a reminder, registration for the Diversity Visa Lottery program for fiscal year 2023 will come to a close on Tuesday November 9, 2021, at noon Eastern Standard Time. Don’t lose your chance of being selected. Registration is easy and completely free. Winners of the diversity visa lottery program for fiscal year 2023 will be announced May 8, 2022 and can apply for their immigrant visas or adjust their status starting October 1, 2022.

For information on how to enter and eligibility please click here.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We start the week with the highly anticipated White House release of “Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which rescinds the various COVID-19 related geographic travel bans previously in place for travelers from certain geographic regions with high rates of COVID-19, for those who have been fully vaccinated for Coronavirus at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 8, 2021. The Proclamation also carves out numerous exceptions for those found “exempt” from the vaccination requirement.


Highlights of the New Proclamation


President Biden has released this new proclamation and moved away from the country-by-country restrictions that previously applied during the pandemic in favor of an air travel policy that relies on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States.


Who does this new Proclamation apply to?


The new proclamation applies to the entry into the United States of all noncitizen nonimmigrants (noncitizens who are visiting the United States or otherwise being admitted temporarily) traveling to the United States by air.

The proclamation suspends the entry of unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants, except in limited circumstances, –the exemptions to the vaccine requirement– and it ensures that the entry of unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants is consistent with applicable health and safety determinations made by the Director of the CDC, including a requirement that, where appropriate, such individuals agree and arrange to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 upon their arrival.

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Exciting news for fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada! The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the United States will be lifting travel restrictions on nonessential travel for Canadian and Mexican nationals who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) so that they may enter the United States at land ports of entry along the United States/Canada and United States/Mexico border.

Further, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has said that the new measures have been made to align “with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November.” According to Mayorkas the United States, “will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings.” This will be a significant step in reopening the economy as “cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in [U.S.] border communities and benefits our broader economy.”

These new measures will occur in two phases over the next few months.  First, in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry ports of entry for non-essential reasons. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes from Canada and Mexico into the United States via land and ferry ports of entry.

Second, beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry ports of entry – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated.


When will travel restrictions be lifted for vaccinated nonessential travelers?


The travel restrictions on nonessential travel for fully vaccinated Canadian and Mexican nationals will be lifted on November 8, 2021 – the same date that the relaxation will apply to fully vaccinated air travelers. Travelers crossing U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico for non-essential reasons will be required to present proof of vaccination to a Customs and Border Protection officer upon request. More details will be released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the coming weeks.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We have very exciting news regarding the Biden administration’s plans to rescind the Covid-19 related travel bans that have suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, India, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran since 2020.

On October 15, 2021, the White House announced that the United States will allow international travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the United States by land or air starting November 8, 2021.

This decision will lift the ban for vaccinated visitors from the affected regions.

On Friday October 15, 2021, a White House Official stated that the “CDC has already informed airlines that all FDA approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for air travel. We anticipate the same will be true at the land border. These travelers are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and to present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request. By January, foreign nationals traveling across the land border for both essential and non-essential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated.”

While the White House is still ironing out the complete details of the new policy including what exemptions the Biden administrations will grant to the vaccine requirements, we know that only generally applicants who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to enter.

The CDC considers an individual to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, while COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use by the World Health Organization include AstraZeneca/Oxford, Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the November Visa Bulletin 2021 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of November 2021.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.

If you would like to follow along on each month’s progress for the Visa Bulletin please be on the lookout for the “Chats with Charlie” series on the DOS YouTube Channel. 

Chats with Charlie is a monthly series recently launched by the State Department where Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control & Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, answers your frequently asked questions regarding each month’s Visa Bulletin. Questions can be emailed to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of the event with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

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