Recently, USCIS has started sending courtesy notices regarding the I-693 medical exam. The USCIS notice advises that as of September 30, 2021 the USCIS medical exam will be valid for 2 years from the date the civil surgeon signs the medical exam as long as the medical is either (1) filed with USCIS within 60 days of obtaining the medical, or (2) the medical exam is signed after the I-485 application is filed with USCIS. USCIS had temporarily extended the validity of the I-693 medical exam from 2 years to 4 years, but the temporary extension is expiring as of September 30, 2021. Additionally, starting October 1, 2021, USCIS will require proof of COVID vaccination as part of the I-693 medical examination process. We are advising clients who have not already submitted their medical exams to USCIS, to wait until USCIS issues the Request for Evidence (RFE) specifically asking for the medical exam before obtaining a medical exam from a designated Civil Surgeon.
U.S. Department of State to Waive In-Person Interviews for F, M and Academic J Visas
Consular officers at the U.S. Department of State have recently been authorized to adjudicate visa applications for F, M and academic J visas applicants (students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars or specialists) without conducting an in-person interview for these applicants. Specifically, Consular officers may waive the visa interview requirement for F, M and academic J visa applicants who have: 1) previously been issued any type of visa to the U.S. and; 2) who have never been refused a visa unless that refusal has been overcome. Consular officers may additionally waive the interview requirement for first time F, M and academic J visa applicants of Visa Waiver Program participating countries who are otherwise admissible and approvable. This new student interview waiver policy is scheduled to remain in effect through the end of the 2021 calendar year.
F and M visa applicants from countries who are subject to a travel ban due to COVID-19 will automatically be considered for a National Interest Exception (NIE) waiver as part of their student visa application process. Alternatively, J visa applicants should contact their local consulate or embassy for instructions regarding how to apply for an NIE. Please note that consular processing procedures and availability varies significantly from post to post. Visa applicants are encouraged to consult the website of the relevant U.S. consulate or embassy in advance of applying for a visa.
Senate Parliamentarian to Decide Whether to Include Immigration Reform in Budget Reconciliation Bill
On Friday September, 9, 2021, Democrats provided arguments to Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough urging her to allow the inclusion of immigration reform legislation in the Budget Reconciliation Bill. Democrats are pushing for the inclusion of provisions that would provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, undocumented farmworkers, temporary protected status holders and essential workers. If the parliamentarian agrees that the immigration provisions can be included in the budget reconciliation bill, it could be the best shot at immigration reform in decades. Meanwhile, on Monday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up its portion of the reconciliation bill text, including immigration provisions.
DHS Extends TPS for Six Countries
At least 400,000 individuals from six countries, including Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, will have their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) automatically extended for 15 months. The order is a result of DHS’ compliance with various federal district court orders from three separate federal lawsuits that were filed in response to the Trump Administration’s attempt to end the designations for the Central American nations. The automatic extension decision was announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday and will be filed in the Federal Registrar.