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December 2020 U.S. Visa and Immigration Updates

Updated: Dec 27, 2020  | Tags: COVID-19, USA Visa Restrictions, USA Immigration

Will the US suspend flights from the UK?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create havoc worldwide, the United States government is considering whether to ban entry to travelers from the United Kingdom, where a new mutation of the virus is spreading rapidly.

A large number of countries have suspended travel from the United Kingdom while scientists investigate the significance of the SARs-COVID -19 mutation. Many researchers believe that this novel mutation is already present in other regions, but its prevalence remains unknown as yet. Meanwhile, the United States government is monitoring the situation before making further decision. Starting Monday, December 28th 2020, air travelers departing from the UK to the U.S. must provide a negative COVID-19 test at least 72 hours before their flight.  Brett Giroir, the Assistant Secretary for Health, said that nothing was ruled out when taking further measures at reducing the spread of the variant.

New H-1B visa rules will not be passed

In October, the Trump administration issued new visa rules making the H1-B visa more difficult to obtain. As part of Trump's "America First" initiative, the change was intended to make it more attractive for American businesses to employ US workers. Employers would have to pay foreign national employees with H-1B visas higher wages than US citizens. They also aimed at changing the eligibility requirements to reduce the number of applicants for this work visa.

Now a federal judge has dismissed this change in H-1B visa rules on the grounds that the government did not follow the legal process correctly.

The future of the H-1B visa under the Biden administration

A large proportion of the 85,000 H-1B visas approved each year are given to highly-skilled foreign employees, often in the medical, engineering, and tech sectors. These foreign workers are recruited by American businesses to boost their performance. While President Trump has made many changes to immigration policy during his term in office, he seems to have targeted the H-1B visa specifically. As President Joe Biden prepares to take office in 2021, it seems likely that the H-1B visa will be subject to less pressure over the coming year.

Judge rules that new DACA applications must be accepted

Federal judge Nicholas Garaufis has ruled that the US government must once more accept applications for the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. The DACA program is designed to provide protection from deportation for the Dreamers, immigrants who arrived in the US as children without documentation.

In July 2020, Chad Wolf, then the acting secretary of the DHS, suspended new applications to DACA. He also reduced the period of protection from two years to just one. On Friday, Judge Garaufis decreed that the Trump administration must open the program to new applicants and reinstate the protection period to two years.

Wolf's suspension of DACA was deemed to be invalid as his own position was unlawful.
The judge decreed that the administration must accept new applications within three days and ordered a report on the status of DACA to be prepared by the first week of January.

What is the DACA program?

DACA was implemented by President Obama's administration in 2012 and transformed the lives of thousands of people who had been brought to the United States as children without papers. The "Dreamers" number around 675,000 at present. DACA gave this group of immigrants temporary rights to study, work, and live legally in the US, without the constant risk of deportation. It gave them the right to apply for college, a work permit, or a driver's license.

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump vowed to end DACA. He was prevented in this by the Supreme Court, who blocked the plan in |June this year. However, the administration was still refusing to accept any further applications to the program. When Joe Biden takes office, he has promised to enshrine DACA permanently in law.