US Immigration: Temporary
work visa ban lifted

Throughout the pandemic, authorities in the United States have enforced travel bans and suspensions on certain travellers seeking to enter the US, in a bid to control the spread of the virus. As a result, many US immigration routes have been impacted by the restrictions.

In this week’s edition of our series on US immigration, we set out the latest guidance for those travelling to the US on temporary work visas.

Temporary work visa applications resume

The US Department of State recently issued an update confirming the expiration of the temporary work visa ban. The Biden Administration allowed the temporary ban first issued on 22 June 2020 to remain effective until its expiry on 31 March 2021, but it will not be extended.

The Presidential Proclamation 10052 barred US Consulates from issuing certain temporary work visas, including H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and some types of J-1 visa based on the previous administration. Now that the ban has expired, qualified applicants can now resume applications for temporary work visas in the affected categories.

While this is welcome news, individuals may still face challenges traveling to the US due to other COVID-19 measures, including regional travel bans, consular service limitations and COVID-19 testing requirements.

Latest advice for US visa applicants

Visa applicants and their employers seeking to enter the United States at this time should familiarise themselves with the current guidance to avoid unnecessary disruptions or delays.

With this in mind, Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following key points:

  • There will be no visa classification-based non-immigrant travel bans in effect. However, several regional COVID-19 public health bans remain in place and may impede visa issuance and travel for many.
  • The regional travel bans for the UK, Ireland, Schengen territories, China, Brazil, Iran and South Africa remain in effect if the individual has been physically been present in one the affected countries within 14 days of attempting entry to the United States. However, exceptions exist for foreign nationals entering on an immigrant or fiancé(e) visa, as well as certain exchange visitors. Pilots and aircrew are now categorically approved for National Interest Exceptions.
  • The restrictions on non-essential travel between the US, Canada and Mexico also remain in place and tourism is still suspended at this time.
  • In addition, consular operations worldwide remain reduced due to COVID-19 public health measures. Significant visa application backlogs have formed as a result of these measures, and are likely to grow as foreign nationals seeking H, L, or J visas submit applications and await visa appointments. Visa applicants should expect delays as consulates continue to phase in routine visa services and work through backlogs.
  • Visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications prioritised and processed in accordance with existing guidance.
  • Finally, all individuals travelling to the US must continue to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel, or proof of recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection, consistent with current guidelines.

Support with US immigration

If you have any US immigration queries please contact the SSW Global Immigration team.

With the help of our global network, we are able to provide full immigration support to help you obtain your visa, and navigate international law to ensure that local immigration rules are met thereafter.

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