Biden Revokes Trump-era COVID-19 Visa Ban

Erick Widman

An exciting announcement came on 24 February 24 when President Biden lifted the Trump-era ban on certain types of immigrant and non-immigrant visas (Proclamation 10014). The backlog of visa applications may take years to sift through unless the Biden administration has a strategic plan for that issue as well. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction toward more equitable immigration policy and one of the many executive orders President Biden has made to dismantle Trump’s hardline anti-immigration policies.

The ban was intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but it resulted in many students, workers, and close family members of US citizens and lawful Permanent Residents being barred from entry for many months, which harmed businesses and put undue stress on families. The bans end will allow certain students and employees, as well as parents of US citizens and children of lawful Permanent Residents to complete their applications and enter the US upon approval. This includes green card applications and work visas for skilled workers in the H-1B, H-4, H-2B, L-1, and J categories.

Biden Proclamation Revoking Immigrant Ban

On 22 April 2020, President Trump declared an immigrant visa ban and extended it shortly before leaving office. It was set to expire at the end of next month.

Biden revoked the freeze that his predecessor had put on many types of visas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the order hurts industries and individuals alike and did not advance U.S. interests.

Biden said in the proclamation revoking the measure (10014) that “it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. … [it] harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”

The Biden Administration proclamation also specifically discuss how the ban “harms individuals who were selected to receive the opportunity to apply for, and those who have likewise received” fiscal year 2020 diversity visas.

The Biden proclamation orders the Departments of State, Labor, and Homeland Security to evaluate any related policies, rules, guidance, or other agency actions and, as appropriate, declare revised guidance to be consistent with the new proclamation.

President Trump had frozen green cards for new immigrants during the pandemic and argued that the dramatic clampdown on legal immigration was important to protecting the U.S. labor market during the pandemic for public health reasons and to protect jobs. He also banned temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers, and au pairs in the H-4, H-2B, L-1 H-1B, and J categories.

Exceptions to Non-Immigrant Ban

In the measure declared on Wednesday, Biden did not lift the freeze on these types of temporary employment visas. It is unclear whether the Biden administration plans to revoke that ban before it expires.

The Department of State, in the meantime, stated on 24 February 2021 that those who believe they may be eligible for a national interest or other provided exception should “follow the instructions on the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website regarding procedures necessary to request an emergency appointment and should provide specific details as to why they believe they may qualify for an exception.”

Biden said the previous policy has prevented eligible and qualified non-U.S. residents from getting into the country, “resulting, in some cases, in the delay and possible forfeiture of their opportunity… to realize their dreams in the United States.”

The reversal of ban by the new administration indicates that hundreds of thousands of foreigners who had expected to wait until the end of March for the chance to apply for the coveted visas can do so right away.
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Analysis

Biden’s revocation of the immigrant visa ban is a positive sign for those who have been prevented from entering the U.S. or from applying for immigrant visas under the ban. The ban mainly affected family-based immigrants. This proclamation does not revoke the work-visa ban declared on 22 June 2020 (Proclamation 10052) that halted particular temporary non-immigrant visa categories, including L-1, H-1B, and J-1 visas.

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