Withdrawal of rules
As of May 17, 2021, USCIS suspended a rule requiring spouses of certain work visa holders to undergo biometric screening to receive work permits. The rule, which took effect in 2019, has skyrocketed application processing times, reaching at least six months and up to 13 months in some cases. Prior to the rule’s implementation, processing times typically ranged from three to six months. The further delay caused by the biometric check has made it nearly impossible for spousal work permit holders to avoid loopholes in the work permit over the past two years, which has led the affected applicants to file a lawsuit. against USCIS in federal court. The suspension covers all applications filed and pending with USCIS on May 17, 2021, and all new applications filed during the 24-month suspension period, which is due to expire on May 17, 2023, unless the agency changes the policy in the future. At the time of this alert, USCIS did not update its posted processing times, which remain at least six months.
The agency also withdrew a 2018 notice of a regulatory proposal to eliminate the International Entrepreneur’s Rule (IER). The IER program, launched in early 2017, was one of the first victims of the Trump administration’s regressive immigration policies. However, the legal mechanism to eliminate the program from the law was never completed, allowing the current administration to easily revive the program. The IER offers temporary permission to enter and stay in the United States (i.e., parole) to foreign-born entrepreneurs looking to start or manage state-based start-up businesses. -United. The rule requires the start-up to provide a “significant public benefit” and to have “substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation” – as evidenced by the receipt of large capital investments and / or government grants to support start-up operations. To learn more about the program and eligibility requirements, you can read our 2017 overview of the rule here.
In addition, the agency removed the controversial interim final rule, “Strengthen the H-1B nonimmigrant visa classification program,” from the text of the immigration regulations. The rule, which would have fundamentally changed many aspects of the H-1B visa program, was overturned by a federal court in December 2020 before it could go into effect. However, the removal of the rule text from the regulations indicates that the administration does not intend to revive or continue these changes to the long-standing H-1B work visa program.
New COVID-19 restrictions
Finally, on the COVID front, the administration added India to the list of countries with regional COVID restrictions due to the recent wave that swept through the country. These regional COVID proclamations prohibit individuals from entering the United States if they were physically present in any of the following restricted countries within 14 days of the date of travel: China; Iran; the European Schengen Area (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, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City); the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland); the Republic of Ireland; Brazil; South Africa; and India.
Some people, such as U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, are exempt from these restrictions. Travelers who are not exempt may request a National Interest Exception (NIE) to the 14-day quarantine requirement if they meet any of the following criteria (in effect on the date of this alert):
- Travelers seeking to provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure or significant economic activity in the United States;
- Students and some academics covered by visitor exchange programs;
- Fiancés of American citizens;
- F-1 students whose programs start on / after August 1, 2021; or
- Travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health and national security.
Significantly, people who have received COVID vaccines are not exempt from the 14-day regional travel restrictions and may need an NIE to enter the United States. You can read more about NIEs in our recent alert here.
Additionally, all travelers to the United States – including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents – are now required to take a COVID test within 72 hours of their inbound flight, regardless of their vaccine status or country of departure. . As domestic and international travel picks up, it’s important to be aware of lingering travel restrictions and to anticipate delays.