Aug 07, 2020 COVID-19 Guidance

DOS Clarifies Scope of National Interest Exception to Immigration Bans

The Department of State has clarified what constitutes a “national interest exception” in the context of the Trump Administration’s recent immigration bans. Applicants outside the US who are barred from obtaining an immigrant visa, H-1B, H-2B, L or certain J-1 visas under the recent Presidential Proclamations may apply for a “national interest exception” if their work will help alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or is critical to alleviating the “secondary effects” (including economic effects) of the pandemic. Requests for national interest exceptions from individuals who do not have a valid visa or ESTA authorization must be submitted to a US embassy or consulate abroad, which will review the request and make its determination on a case-by-case basis.

H-1B1 Visas Not Subject to Immigration Ban 

The United States Embassy in Singapore has confirmed that H-1B1 visas for Singaporean and Chilean professionals are not impacted by the June 22, 2020 immigration ban that prohibits H-1B, H-2B, L, and certain J nonimmigrants from entering the United States on a new visa. The consulates will continue to issue new H-1B1 visas, and H-1B1 visa holders will be permitted to enter the US even if they were not in possession of their visa on the effective date of the proclamation.

Students Traveling From Europe Will Be Exempt from COVID-19 Travel Ban

The Department of State has announced that students traveling from Europe to pursue their education in the United States will not be subject to the COVID-19-related travel ban. Generally, travelers who have been physically present in any of the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, or Iran during the preceding 14 days are prohibited from entering the United States. The exception applies only to students in European countries who are already in possession of a visa to study in the United States.

USCIS Ordered to Print Work Permits; Green Card Delays Remain 

Earlier this week, a federal judge in Ohio ordered US Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) to print work permits (Employment Authorization Documents or EADs) within seven days for applicants whose applications had been approved. The lawsuit noted that a significant number of individuals whose applications had previously been approved have been waiting months to receive their EADs. USCIS claims that the delay in EAD processing, as well as similar delays in the printing of permanent resident cards (green cards), is due to the agency having ended its contract with an outside vendor that produced EADs and green cards.

If your EAD or green card application has been approved but you have not yet received the physical card, please let us know. You may be eligible to join a class action lawsuit that seeks to compel the government to issue delayed cards.

USCIS Temporarily Delays Plans to Furlough Workers 

USCIS has delayed plans to furlough 70% of its workforce until August 30, 2020. The agency originally planned to furlough over 13,000 workers by August 3, 2020 if it did not receive emergency funds from Congress. USCIS has since announced that they now expect to end the year with a surplus, although they are still seeking $1.2 billion in emergency funds. Should a furlough go into effect, it would likely exacerbate long processing times at USCIS.