Immigration Update: New Travel Restriction + Biometrics Changes + Deference
We have four immigration updates to share with you in this article. First, we will discuss an update regarding the end of travel restrictions on people who have been in India and other select countries and want to travel to the United States. Second, we have an update regarding USCIS cancelling biometrics for certain types of cases. Third, we will cover an update regarding USCIS enacting a new policy which will give deference to prior case approvals for extensions of stay. Fourth and finally, we have an update regarding USCIS seeking public feedback on barriers to receiving certain immigration benefits from the United States.
We are Ashoori Law, led by Michael Ashoori, a U.S. immigration lawyer based in Los Angeles, California. At our law firm, we work with clients from all over the world, and we regularly post articles and videos to make sure that you are up to date with the latest immigration news. If, after reading this article, you have more questions, then we invite you to contact us at Ashoori Law. Feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.
1. COVID-19 Travel Ban Restrictions Lifted Effective November 8, 2021
A travel ban was enacted on April 30, 2021, which restricted travel to the United States by people who had been in India and other select countries within the last 14 days. India suffered a rapid and violent spread of COVID-19 and the White House noted in its proclamation that over one-third of new global COVID-19 cases were coming out of India. As a protective measure, the Biden administration enacted a proclamation suspending the entry of certain noncitizens from India and other select countries to the United States if they had been physically present in one of those countries within the last 14 days.
The travel ban did not apply to any lawful permanent resident of the United States, any noncitizen national of the United States, any noncitizen who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or any noncitizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21.
Finally, on October 25, 2021, President Biden announced that these travel restrictions would end on November 8, 2021. In place of these restrictions, the President announced a global vaccination requirement for all adult foreign national travelers who wish to enter the United States. As a result of this new proclamation, titled “ “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the Department of State has resumed processing visa applications for those who are physically present in the affected countries (Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom). Applicants who previously applied and were refused a visa, solely due to their presence in a country listed above, should contact their embassy or consulate and request reconsideration based on the end of the travel ban.
However, please note that even though visas will now be processed for people who travelled through the affected countries, this does not mean that your local US embassy or consulate is able to immediately schedule you for a visa interview. Embassies and consulates continue to face backlogs and unscheduled closings due to COVID. You can check the embassy or consulate websites for more up to date information regarding the services they are currently offering.
2. H4 and L2 Applicants No Longer Need Biometrics for Extensions of Stay and Work Permits
Due to the resolution of a recent lawsuit stemming from major processing backlogs of H4 and L2 applicants, USCIS will no longer be requiring biometrics for H4 and L2 applicants who apply for I-539 Extensions of Status and Work Permit renewals. It is important to note that H4 applicants are spouses of H1B visa holders, and L2 applicants are spouses of L1 visa holders. Thus, because of the affiliation with those visa holders by marriage, USCIS concluded that a biometrics appointment was unnecessary for those applicants. This policy went into effect on May 17, 2021.
This suspension will apply only to the H-4, L-2, and E nonimmigrant status categories of Form I-539 applications that are either: (1) Pending as of May 17, 2021, and have not yet received a biometric services appointment notice; or (2) New applications postmarked or submitted electronically on or after May 17, 2021.
Please note that because the biometrics fee is no longer required, USCIS will begin to reject paper filings where applicants submit a single payment covering both the filing fee and the $85 biometrics service fee. If this happens to you, you will have to re-file Form I-539 without the biometrics services fee. If your filing is rejected, you run the risk of an untimely filing when you refile. This suspension will be in effect for 24 months for H-4, L-2, and E nonimmigrants filing Form I-539, and then USCIS will revisit the issue.
3. New Policy on Deference
On April 27, 2021 USCIS issued a policy alert advising that USCIS will defer to prior determinations of eligibility in requests for extensions of status. The concept of “deference” means that if (i) USCIS approved your immigration status in the past, (ii) you're applying for an extension of that particular status, and (iii) nothing really has changed since USCIS initially approved your case, then USCIS will give deference to (i.e., rely on) that prior approval to allow the extension with no further paperwork or investigation. Of course, if there was a material change in your circumstances on eligibility, or there is new material information that adversely impacts your or your beneficiary’s eligibility, then USCIS does not have to defer to the prior decision.
4. Biden Administration is Seeking Public Comment on Immigration Barriers
The fourth and final update is a new announcement by USCIS that it is seeking comments from the public to identify any barriers to receiving various immigration benefits. By way of background, back on February 2, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order titled “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.”. As part of USCIS’s effort to be compliant with that executive order, it is seeking comments from the public, specifically immigrants, to identify any hurdles and barriers that prevent both U.S. and foreign citizens from obtaining access to the full assortment of legally available immigration services and benefits in and from the United States. This is USCIS’s way of identifying strategies that promote inclusion and eliminate barriers that impede access to US immigration benefits.
You may submit comments, identified by docket number USCIS-2021-0004, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. There are instructions provided for submitting comments. If you cannot submit your comment by using http://www.regulations.gov, please contact Samantha Deshommes, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, by telephone at 240-721-3000 for alternate instructions.
With these four updates, you can see that USCIS, under the new Biden administration, is making efforts to improve and speed up their processing to provide better services for noncitizens and lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States. If you have any questions, feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.