Before the COVID-19 pandemic, getting a US visa wasn’t such a complicated matter if you had all the documents and requirements ready. What caused recent complications was the lockdown, and the health and economic repercussions of the pandemic.
If you or your immigration attorney were in the middle of processing your visa when the shelter-in-place rules were implemented, or if you plan to do so now, here are some reminders and things you need to know.
Processing of US Visas May Resume Soon
The Department of State (DOS) announced on July 14 that US visa processing activities all over the world might resume on a post-by-post basis, but it has not released a specific date. The department is working to re-staff its embassies and consulates gradually and continues to monitor health and safety situations in various countries, according to news from the DOS website. Shortly before the lockdown, the government recalled select embassy and consulate employees, operating offshore facilities on a skeletal workforce.
Since March, embassies and consulates have been providing visas for “emergency and mission-critical” applications only, and continue to do so. For other visa applications, President Donald Trump signed Proclamation 10014 on April 22, suspending all immigrant and certain non-immigrant visas.
About Proclamation 10014 and 10052
Proclamation 10014 suspended the entry into the United States of immigrants who are potential competitors of American citizens in the labor and employment market. All immigrants were barred from entry for 60 days. This is to give a better opportunity for unemployed Americans and local businesses affected by the pandemic to get jobs and recover economically.
On June 22, the day after the 60th day covered in the previous proclamation, the president signed Proclamation 10052, which extends the suspension of immigrant and select non-immigrant visas to December 31, 2020. ;
Why Are Non-immigrant Visas Suspended?
Certain non-immigrant visas are suspended for individuals seeking temporary work placements in the country. According to Proclamation 10014, while these temporary job opportunities given to foreign nationals contribute to economic growth for the US under normal circumstances, the current effects of the pandemic called for prioritizing homeland citizens. This means that companies who used to hire employees under the following non-immigrant visa programs can’t conduct external hiring activities at this time:
- H-1B – occupations requiring specialized knowledge
- H-2B – temporary workers doing temporary or seasonal services
- J – exchange visitors who are doctors, professors, teachers, scholars
- L – Employee transferees within the multinational company
Trump mentioned that non-immigrant visa holders automatically gain access to the US labor market. Statistical information before the pandemic shows that American employees have lost jobs to foreign temporary workers. With the high rate of unemployment in the country now, the government decided to focus on giving Americans the chance to gain employment first.
There are exceptions to the rule, as always.
Who Are Allowed to Enter the United States under Proclamation 10052?
- For H1-B visas – Public health or healthcare professionals, medical researchers for COVID-19, its secondary related conditions, and for illnesses with public health interest; individuals requested by a US government agency or entity to conduct research, IT support/services, and similar projects for a government agency
- For H2-B visas – Individuals requested by a US government agency or entity to satisfy foreign policy objectives, contractual or treaty obligations, such as those working on the construction of US military bases or IT infrastructure
- For J-1 visas – Skilled child caregivers for minors with special medical needs, caregivers of children of US medical workers involved in COVID-19 healthcare services, au pair, individuals engaged in exchange programs to promote national interests, childcare services for children of COVID-19 patients, US government-sponsored trainees and interns, visitors participating in exchange programs, specialized teachers
- For L-1 visas – Public health and healthcare professionals and medical researchers dealing with COVID-19 and critical illness-related activities
- H-4, L-2, and J-2 visas – Spouses or parents who will accompany or follow the principal visa holder and who are not subject to the prohibitions of both proclamations; derivative applicants, if the primary visa holder is currently in the US
- Exceptions under Proclamation 10014 – Current visa holders whose visas will expire during the period covered in the proclamation or within two weeks were recommended to set an appointment
For travelers carrying an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)—individuals who are not visa holders but are allowed to stay in the country for up to 90 days—but couldn’t leave the US because of COVID-19, they’re given an additional 30 days of stay by the USCIS to recover. If they’re still unable to leave after the 30 days, they will be granted another 30 days.
The US government is slowly getting its visa processing services back to regular flow according to the COVID-19 status in the mission’s locations. Health and social distancing protocols are implemented for the safety of applicants and staff. Before you apply for a visa, call the embassy or consulate in your city to confirm eligibility and office schedules.