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WORKSPAN
WORKSPAN DAILY |

U.S. Work Visa Ban Expires

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The H-1B and H-2B work visa programs suspended by former President Donald Trump during the early stages of the pandemic was allowed to expire on March 31, the Biden administration announced.

Trump said he enacted the directive because the entrance of visa holders “posed a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak,” and he said the suspension merited extension into 2021 because existing concerns had “not been eliminated.”

Visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview “will have their applications prioritized,” the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said. The agency added in a separate statement that it is unable to provide a specific date for when each mission will resume specific visa services, noting that the resumption of services would occur on a “post-by-post basis.” There is currently a backlog of almost a half a million immigrant visa cases awaiting consular interviews. The State Department advised visa applicants with an “urgent matter who need to travel immediately” to contact the nearest embassy or consulate to request an emergency appointment.

The original directive was met with much chagrin from the business community, particularly in the tech sector, which relies heavily on foreign talent through the H-1B and H-2B programs to supplement their U.S. talent. The expiration means that individuals who were previously subject to the proclamation will no longer be prohibited from applying for a visa in these categories, nor will such applicants be required to seek National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) to the proclamation. This will be highly beneficial for companies and employees seeking to resume global mobility, noted Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Despite the expiration of Trump’s directive, the country-specific admission bans remain in effect. These COVID-19-specific travel bans restrict the admission of individuals who have been present in any of the following countries during the 14 days preceding their proposed entry to the United States: Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland) and the Schengen area (which includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland).

While these bans remain in effect, individuals present in any of these countries will not be able to secure a visa in any category unless they are preapproved for entry to the U.S. through the approval of an NIE to the COVID-19-related travel bans. Applicants in other countries not impacted by a COVID-19-related travel ban may have an easier time securing an appointment for nonimmigrant visa issuance, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP noted.

About the Author

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Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.


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