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India subject to direct travel ban due to COVID-19

Updated: May 07, 2021  | Tags: Travel Restrictions, COVID-19, USA Visa Restrictions

Following a proclamation from the White House on April 30th, 2021, people traveling from India on nonimmigrant visas will be unable to enter the United States from May 4th, 2021. The ban will not apply to those with a valid visa who have not been present in India for more than fourteen days before traveling to the US.

US citizens and US permanent residents are also exempt from the travel ban. However, others may still travel to the US from India on nonimmigrant visas (i.e., E, H, L, and O visa categories) as long as they come under one of the following definitions:

  • A nonimmigrant who is a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) or is married to a US citizen
  • A nonimmigrant who is the legal guardian or parent of a US citizen or green card holder who is not married and is under the age of twenty-one
  • A nonimmigrant who is not married, is under the age of twenty-one, and is the sibling of a US citizen or green card holder who is themself not married and below the age of twenty-one
  • A nonimmigrant or noncitizen who is a child, foster child, or ward of a United States citizen or green card holder, or who is a prospective adoptee who wishes to enter the US with an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
  • A nonimmigrant or noncitizen who is traveling to the US at the invitation of the government to work in the fight against COVID-19
  • A noncitizen traveling to the US with a C-1, C-1/D, or D nonimmigrant visa as air or sea crew or
  • A nonimmigrant entering the US under a visa that applies to officials of foreign governments and members of their immediate families. These visa categories include A1, A-2, C-2, C-3 E-1, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through to NATO-4, and NATO-6.
  • A nonimmigrant or noncitizen entering the US according to section 11 of the United Nations HQ Agreement;
  • A nonimmigrant or noncitizen who is a member of the US military and their spouse and children
  • A nonimmigrant or noncitizen traveling with regard to US law enforcement policies as decreed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State following recommendations by the US Attorney General
  • A nonimmigrant whose entry into the US is in the national interest for various reasons
  • A nonimmigrant or noncitizen who has traveled to a third country that is not in the COVID-19 travel ban group and stays there in quarantine for a minimum of fourteen days before entering the US

The new travel ban suspending direct entry from India means that the country joins an already large group of countries already subject to travel bans. This group currently includes the UK, Ireland, the Schengen area, China, South Africa, Brazil, and Iran.

USCIS reinstates 2004 policy guidance giving deference to prior decisions

USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Services) has announced that a 2004 policy regarding H-1B and L-1 petitions deferring to previous decisions on the eligibility of visa extension requests will be reinstated.

Before 2017, when an employer submitted a request for the extension of work authorization, the 2004 guidelines gave deference to petitions that had previously been approved. This rule applied unless there was an error or change in circumstances that required the H-1B visa extension to be adjudicated.

But in 2017, President Trump ended the deference guidance, and the new rules demanded that all petitions be considered as if they were new applications. The result was an increased workload for the agency that caused a significant backlog of adjudications.

The latest policy change accords with the Biden administrations’ aim to restore faith in the legal immigration system and promote fair and efficient adjudication of benefits for immigrants.

President Biden raises cap on refugee admissions

This week, President Joe Biden announced that the cap on refugee admissions would be raised to 62,500, more than four times the cap during President Trump’s term in office. The former cap had been just 15,000, an historically low figure that President Biden said failed to reflect American values as a country that supports and welcomes refugees.

The previous month, the Biden administration had been criticized when it was announced that the refugee cap would remain the same at 15,000. This lower figure reversed a promise made during Biden’s electoral campaign when he pledged to allow more refugees to enter the United States this year. The president also stated that sadly, the target of 62,500 is unlikely to be met in the coming fiscal year, blaming the anti-immigration policies implemented by former President Donald Trump.

However, he is planning to raise the refugee cap further to 125,00 during the next fiscal year. He also promised to use every means available to assist refugees fleeing war, poverty, and violence in their home countries.