Receiving a visa to travel to the United States is often the first major step in the process of a successful green card application. Applicants need to first be admissible to the United States, pass customs, and be physically present per the USCIS guidelines in order to fill out an I-485 application and have their cases processed. This method is usually preferred over concurrent filing, if applicable, because applicants can travel to the U.S. sooner rather than later, and can start their employment in some cases.
Over the course of the past year, however, Covid-19 has threatened the entire immigration system by creating longer than usual backlogs to the USCIS database, the closure of airports and airlines for international travel (which has only recently opened back up), and also closing U.S. consulates and embassies and therefore interviews for those in the application process abroad. The cancellations have often come unexpectedly as a result of public health precautions taken by the government and federal staff.
Covid-19 thus creates unexpected, but necessary, policy decisions that can halt travel arrangements for any non-citizen seeking to come to the United States, regardless if they have an approved travel document. For example, only a few days ago, the new Biden Administration passed a proclamation on “The Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-immigrants of Certain Additional Persons who pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus”. The full briefing and text of this announcement can be found here: New Presidential Proclamation.
Details of the Suspension Proclamation
Because of the new variant of the virus that has been notably spreading in other countries, the new proclamation seeks to do the following:
- Suspend entrance of immigrants and non-immigrants into the U.S. who were present in South Africa in the 14 day period prior to their attempted entry into the U.S.
- Suspend entrance of immigrants and non-immigrants into the U.S. from the Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland, and Brazil
- Allow LPRs from the following countries re-entrance
- Allow spouses of U.S. citizens/LPRs from the following countries re-entrance
- Allow siblings (unmarried, under 21) of U.S. citizens and LPRs from the following countries re-entrance
- Allow non-citizens to travel to the U.S. on behalf of an international organization or via the U.S. government.
What does it mean for visa applicants?
Because of the above rules in the proclamation, many immigrants with U.S. citizen close family members will still be permitted to travel to the U.S. This means that having an alien petition approved and a visa available will not disbar such individuals from boarding an aircraft to the United States. However, non-immigrants (in the case of those seeking employment in the U.S. will not be able to travel to the United States unless their job and entry would be for “national interest”.
There is no telling when the current Proclamation will be terminated, although the President will re-consider termination in 30 days' time.