Immigration Update

Sep 28, 2021 | Immigration Updates

In this edition, read about Biden’s new vaccine policy for international travelers, CBP announcing an extension of temporary restrictions on travelers crossing U.S. land borders, how the EB-5 Regional Center program’s lapse is stranding investors, and more.

Biden Admin Announces New Policy: Vaccines, Testing Required for International Travelers to United States

The Biden administration announced on September 20, 2021, a major easing of pandemic travel restrictions that will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the United States beginning in November 2021. Under the new policy, all foreign travelers flying to the United States must present proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S.-bound airline, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before flying. There will be no quarantine requirement. The Biden administration will implement enhanced contact tracing and continue to require masks on flights. Additionally, unvaccinated Americans returning to the United States will need to provide a negative test within one day of leaving and again after arriving. The administration said that it will task the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with determining which vaccines qualify under the new policy. The Associated Press reported that CDC has announced that the United States will accept any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization. Limited exceptions will be available, such as for children; COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants; and humanitarian exceptions for people traveling for an important reason and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner. Individuals who are exempted from the vaccine requirement may be required to be vaccinated upon arrival.

Details:  “U.S. to Ease Covid Travel Entry Rules, Require Vaccinations for Foreign Visitors,” NBC News, Sept. 20, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/u-s-require-covid-vaccinations-international-travelers-n1279635

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CBP Announces Extension of Temporary Restrictions on Travelers Crossing U.S. Land Borders

Traveling to Canada remains constrained. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on September 22, 2021, that non-essential travel will continue to be restricted across the U.S.-Canada and Mexico land borders through October 21, 2021. Cross-border activities with Canada and Mexico “that support health security, trade, commerce, supply security, and other essential activities” will continue. The order does not apply to those “who should be excepted based on considerations of law enforcement, officer and public safety, humanitarian, or public health interests.”

Details: CBP announcement, Sept. 22, 2021, https://help.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-1596?language=en_US

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EB-5 Regional Center Program Lapse Strands Investors

The lapse in the EB-5 regional center program has had a major impact on certain investors. According to a reports, the lapse is hurting more than 32,000 stranded EB-5 investors, putting at least $15 billion in capital investment and more than 486,900 U.S. jobs in jeopardy.

Under the current lapse in authorization, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has halted adjudication of all I-526 petitions filed by EB-5 investors affiliated with regional centers. According to USCIS, nearly 12,800 EB-5 investors had a pending I-526 petition as of June 30, 2021, when the program expired. The report says that historically, according to the Department of State, 93.4% of the EB-5 visa numbers have been used by applicants who invested through a regional center. This means that nearly 12,000 EB-5 investors with an I-526 petition on file will not receive an adjudication on their EB-5 cases during the lapse of the program and will experience delays in their legal immigration process. Also, visa applicants with a currently approved I-526 petition are not able to receive an EB-5 visa number as of the program’s expiration on June 30.

A draft bill, the Foreign Investor Fairness Protection Act (FIFPA), which has not been introduced yet, would help stranded investors if Congress fails to reauthorize the EB-5 regional center program. The bill would protect “job-creating foreign investors from loss of immigration benefits under the EB-5 Program due to expiration of temporary legislation or from future amendments to statute.” A new organization, the American Immigrant Investor Alliance (AIIA), has formed to help stranded EB-5 investors. The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers encourages stranded investors to write their members of Congress, their ambassadors, and AIIA to urge reauthorization of the EB-5 program and passage of the FIFPA.

Details: IIUSA Data Analysis: Impact of the Lapse of the EB-5 Regional Center Program on Investors, Investments and Job Creation,” IIUSA: Invest in the USA, Aug. 20, 2021 (updated Aug. 27, 2021), https://iiusa.org/blog/iiusa-data-analysis-impact-of-the-lapse-of-the-eb-5-regional-center-program-on-investors-investments-and-job-creation/

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GAO Faults USCIS for Insufficient Efforts to Address Backlogs

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new report examining U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) efforts to reduce its pending caseload, which has increased by 85% in recent years. The GAO noted that policy changes, longer forms, staffing issues, and delays from COVID-19 have all contributed to longer processing times. The GAO found that although USCIS has several plans to address the backlog, it has not implemented them and has not identified necessary resources to address its pending caseload. The GAO concluded, among other things, that developing a strategic workforce plan “would better position USCIS to address long-term workforce challenges and reduce its growing pending caseload.” USCIS has not implemented or updated its plans to reduce its caseload to reflect the funding and other resources needed to address the pending caseload, the GAO said: “Identifying the resources necessary to address its pending caseload and providing the estimates to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress would better inform them about USCIS’s resource needs.”

Details: GAO report, https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-529

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