White House Lifts COVID-19 Executive Order that Banned Entry on Certain Permanent Immigrant Visas

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On February 24, 2021 President Biden officially lifted restrictions on entry to the United States stemming from former President Trump’s Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020 (“Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak”) (Proclamation 10014). This Proclamation prevented certain foreign nationals from entering the United States as immigrants unless they had alternative travel documents. Individuals outside the United States on the effective date of Proclamation 10014 (April 23, 2020) without an approved immigrant visa have, to date, been unable to enter the country on new immigrant visas (Form I-140). Individuals can now enter on new Form I-140-based immigrant visas (including for EB-1 to EB-5 categories, and diversity visas). It is worth noting that it is likely that there will be delays in appointments due to backlogs and continued consulate COVID-19 restrictions.

In light of President Biden’s decision to lift the restrictions, the Department of State has issued the following instructions for impacted individuals who seek to travel on new immigrant visas:  

Individuals who had not yet been interviewed/scheduled for interview:  Individuals will be subject to the normal processing framework for visa applications, including a phased resumption of visa services (consulate-specific basis depending on local country conditions).

Individuals already interviewed who hold valid petitions but were refused visas due to Proclamation 10014: These individuals should await instructions from the U.S. embassy or consulate where interviewed as the Department of State will reconsider previously refused cases (under the prior proclamation) and inform applicants if new information is needed.

Diversity Visa 2020 Applicants: Those holding diversity visas issued in 2020 that are still valid may seek entry to the United States immediately, despite the visa annotation, “Entry Subject to PP 10014.” Individuals whose DV-2020 visas have expired, however, may not be issued replacement visas.  The Department of State has also noted that “individuals who received diversity visas in 2020 as a result of the court order issued in Gomez v. Trump may still travel to the U.S. on an expired visa” because the court ordered the government to treat these visas as though they were issued on the rescission date of Proclamation 10014. The Department of State points out that the court did not specify for how long the visas would be considered valid and that it is possible the court order could be changed or modified, recommending affected individuals “travel as soon as practicable” if benefiting from the court order.

It should be noted that entry restrictions prohibiting issuance of new temporary L-1 (intracompany transferee), H-1B (specialty occupation), H-2B (nonagricultural workers) and J-1 (trainee, au pair, intern) visas for individuals outside of the United States remain in effect, and have not been rescinded. That order is set to expire on March 31, 2021. As L-1 and H-1B visas remain among the most popular employment visas, the restrictions continue to hamper the ability of many employers to employ new visa workers in the United States. It is unclear whether President Biden will take action to rescind that proclamation ahead of the expiration. We will continue to monitor new developments.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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