Summary of Latest Immigration Updates
We are continuing to adapt to global and domestic changes which have impacted the immigration landscape in recent months. Below is a summary of those changes, including the latest Executive Order, COVID-19 travel restrictions, consular affairs, and USCIS operations.
As previously reported, President Trump signed a new Executive Order that temporarily suspends entry of H-1B, L-1, J-1 and H-2B Nonimmigrants, and their dependents, who do not have a valid corresponding visa (stamp) or advance parole document as of June 24, 2020. The Order is in effect through December 31, 2020. This Order primarily impacts those outside of the US without valid visas or travel documents and does not impact those lawfully present in the US. Further, the Order does not prohibit entry of visa-exempt Canadians.
The Order also extended the prohibition on issuance of immigrant visas (green cards via consular processing) which was outlined in an Executive Order issued on April 23rd, through December 31st.
While the impact of these orders is minimal for those working inside the US, they present hardship for those who need to travel internationally for personal reasons or to activate a consular approval, those who have been stuck outside of the US due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and employers who wish to transfer employees from international offices.
Several Presidential Proclamations issued in the wake of COVID-19 restricting travel to the US remain in effect until further notice. With specific exceptions, foreign nationals (non-US Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents) who have been in China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the UK, Ireland, and Brazil within the last 14 days are prohibited from entry. Those authorized to return to the US from international travel must stay home for 14 days to monitor their health and practice social distancing.
Travel to the US from Canada and Mexico is permitted given the purpose for entry is essential (which includes employment). Visa requirements still apply.
Most consular posts abroad suspended public-facing operations in the wake of COVID-19. While some posts have gradually begun to resume operations, availability of full-service including visa issuance remain uncertain and vary by post. Travelers requiring consular services should reach out to the appropriate post to confirm which operations are available.
USCIS’ fiscal outlook is dire due to COVID-19 which has caused a 50% decrease in applications since March. In an announcement by USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow, USCIS has attempted to explain the impact of an impending budget shortfall with congress since May, but no plan has been implemented. If congress does not provide funding, USCIS will have to furlough at least 13,000 staff members (nearly 68% of its workforce) by August 3rd. This will undoubtedly have a negative impact on case processing times which are already excessive.
USCIS field offices and asylum offices have resumed non-emergency public services on June 4th, with Application Support Centers (ASC) opening throughout July. Appointments are required and walk-ins will not be accepted. Individuals whose appointments were previously cancelled will be rescheduled. All offices will implement precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those with appointments should confirm requirements of the location they will be visiting prior to their scheduled appointment.