As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, the effects on immigration have been widespread and varied. For the U.S., the disruption has trickled into almost every avenue of the immigration process closing centers, banning travel, and creating backlogs on top of existing backlogs.
With court hearings suspended, USCIS and passport offices closing, or at least operating on skeleton staff, many have been left in limbo. For both family and employment visas, a near standstill has occurred in processing alone for several months in 2020.
Many countries remain on a suspension list as per the Presidential Proclamations 9993 and 9996.Admission will be refused if a person has been physically present in the last 14 days in any of the following countries: –
- The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, (this does not include overseas territory outside of Europe)
- The Schengen Region (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, and Switzerland).
- The Islamic Republic of Iran.
- The People’s Republic of China (Excluding SAR Hong Kong & Macau)
- The Republic of Ireland.
These bans do not include: –
- U.S. citizens.
- U.S citizens immediate family members
- Legal permanent residents.
- Other individuals outlined in the proclamation.
If you fall within an exemption category, there will be an expectation for you to carry demonstrating documentation as proof as well as a copy of the PP 9993 or PP 9996.
With both Presidential Proclamations in effect until at least 31st March 2021, it is still unclear whether that will be the end of the bans. The most important goal globally at the moment, is getting the virus under control. As stressful and disruptive as that may be to people’s plans, family dynamics and livelihoods, a safer future is a better future.
In January, President Joe Biden reviewed the Proclamations and made the decision to extend suspensions, as entry of certain groups into the U.S. poses a risk to the country’s safety. As more changes take place, we’ll be sure to update you along the way.
Currently the USCIS are continuing to work on a case-by-case basis. With EB-5 excluded from the visa suspensions, in some cases the applications have been fast tracked. For more information on the effects of COVID-19 on the EB-5 program, you can read in more detail here.
Certain consulates and embassies have resumed service, although this is very much dependent on the host countries’ situation. What is being seen at the moment, is a fluid and phased return to visa processing. In matters of urgent circumstance, emergency appointments can be requested if the country is still struggling under the virus.
With the U.S. operating state by state, and countries around the world being at different stages of the pandemic, finding an accurate timeframe with which normality will return is extremely difficult. For up-to-date or area specific information, you can visit https://www.uscis.gov/