Biden Lifts Immigrant Visa Ban Ahead of March 31st Expiration Date
On February 24, 2021, President Biden revoked a Trump-era Presidential Proclamation that had banned the issuance of most new immigrant visas at US consulates abroad. The revoked proclamation was originally issued in April 2020 and had been extended until March 31, 2021. The new Presidential Proclamation notes that this ban harmed the United States by preventing family reunification and damaging industries that utilize talent from around the world.
Although consulates and embassies are now permitted to begin processing all visa categories, applicants should be aware that the consulates are likely to be faced with large backlogs for many months, and perhaps longer. As a result of the backlogs, reduced personnel at the consulates, and diminished processing capacity during the pandemic, visa appointments will likely still be difficult to obtain in the near future. Nevertheless, all immigrant visa applicants are now eligible to schedule appointments and have their visas issued.
Please contact us with any questions about processing your immigrant visa.
Expedited Processing Now Available for E-3 Petitions in the US
The US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will now accept premium processing requests for E-3 petitions for Australian workers. Previously, the premium processing service was limited to certain nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applications including H-1B, L, E-1/E-2 and O-1 nonimmigrant petitions and I-140 immigrant petitions. E-3 petitioners can now request premium processing to receive a decision or other action on their case within 15 calendar days. The application filing fee is $2500; the same as for all other premium processing filings.
Department of State Issues New Criteria for National Interest Exceptions and Travel Ban Waivers
On March 2, 2021, the US Department of State (DOS) rescinded four categories of travelers who were previously eligible for National Interest Exception waivers (NIEs) to the European travel bans. The categories of travelers who are no longer eligible for NIEs include:
- Technical experts and specialists
- Senior-level managers and executives
- Treaty traders and investors
- Professional athletes and dependents
Previously issued visas or NIEs in these categories will remain valid, and NIEs will continue to be issued to academics, students, journalists, and travelers in the public health, national security, and humanitarian categories.
At the same time, DOS has created a new NIE eligibility category for travelers seeking to provide support for “critical infrastructure” in the United States. While DOS has not yet defined “critical infrastructure,” the Department of Homeland Security has suggested that the term may include industries such as the chemical sector, the communications sector, the critical manufacturing sector, the energy sector, the financial services sector, food and agriculture, government facilities, Information Technology, and transportation, among others.
If you are traveling to the US from a Schengen country, the United Kingdom, or Ireland and are in need of an NIE, please contact us for assistance.