Immigration Update

May 3, 2021 | Immigration Updates

In this edition, read about the limits on visa services for India, NIE expansion, USCIS deference, and more!

President Biden Suspends Entry of Noncitizens/Non-LPRs Traveling From India; U.S. Mission in India Announces Limits on Visa Services

President Biden has issued a proclamation suspending the entry of non-U.S. citizens who were physically present within India during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, with some exceptions. The proclamation takes effect tomorrow May 4, 2021, and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

The proclamation states that India “is experiencing widespread, ongoing person-to-person transmission of the virus” that causes COVID-19 and its variants. The proclamation cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has concluded that proactive measures are required to protect U.S. “public health from travelers entering the United States from that jurisdiction.”

The ban on entry does not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), noncitizen nationals of the United States, noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens or LPRs, noncitizen members of the U.S. armed forces, noncitizens whose entry is in the national interest; noncitizens traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the coronavirus, and several other categories.

The White House has alerted U.S. airlines and Congress. Also, the U.S. embassy and consulates in India announced significant temporary limitations on visa and other services.

Details: “A Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019,” White House, Apr. 30, 2021, https://bit.ly/3356kNO

State Dept. Announces Global National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

On a positive note, the Department of State (DOS) announced on April 27, 2021 national interest exceptions to all regional travel restrictions currently in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. DOS said that students seeking to start studies in the fall, certain academics, journalists, and individuals who provide critical infrastructure support in countries affected by a geographic COVID-19 restriction may now qualify for a national interest exception. This includes qualified applicants who have been in Brazil, China, Iran, or South Africa. DOS also said that the pandemic “continues to limit the number of visas our embassies and consulates abroad are able to process,” and that visa applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for the latest information about visa appointment availability.

Details: “Uniform Global National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions,” Dept. of State, Apr. 27, 2021, https://www.state.gov/uniform-global-national-interest-exceptions-to-covid-19-travel-restrictions/

USCIS Reverses Trump Policy, Instructs Adjudicators to Resume Granting Deference to Prior Determinations in Petition Validity Extension Requests

More good news! Effective immediately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy guidance on April 27, 2021, to generally restore its 2004 instructions directing officers to defer to prior determinations of eligibility when adjudicating petition extensions involving the same parties and facts as the initial petition. USCIS had rescinded the 2004 guidance in 2017. The updated policy clarifies that USCIS will once again give deference unless there was a material error, material change in circumstances or eligibility, or new material information that adversely impacts the petitioner’s, applicant’s, or beneficiary’s eligibility. The updated policy also affirms that USCIS “considers, but does not defer to, previous eligibility determinations on petitions or applications made by other U.S. government agencies,” and that “officers make determinations on the evidence of record in the petition or application under adjudication.”

Details: “Deference to Prior Determinations of Eligibility in Requests for Extensions of Petition Validity,” USCIS Policy Alert, Apr. 27, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/policy-manual-updates/20210427-Deference.pdf

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State Dept. Announces Tiered Immigrant Visa Prioritization

Department of State (DOS) is getting a handle on the backlogs. On April 30, 2021, the DOS announced a tiered prioritization approach to “triage” immigrant visa applications in light of reduced operating capacity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The main categories of immigrant visas in priority order are:

  • Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government)
  • Tier Two: Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
  • Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas

Details: “Immigrant Visa Prioritization,” DOS, Apr. 30, 2021, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/immigrant-visa-prioritization.html Back to Top

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