The Title 42 Covid Ban invoked by the Trump Administration is set to end on May 11, 2023. The controversial policy allowed officials at the southern border to quickly deny asylum seekers due to the ongoing COVID pandemic emergency. Now that the Biden Administration has decided to lift the ban, thousands of applicants are expected at the border in hopes of receiving protection under asylum regulations. In an effort to ease the burden at the southern border, the Biden Administration will be opening Processing Centers in Guatemala and Columbia. The intention is to have applicants present their asylum claims at these centers without having to make the dangerous journey through Latin America and Mexico to get to the US. However, new policies will also permit CBP officers to deny asylum claims at the border if they did not apply for asylum in the countries they passed through or set an appointment with CBP. With the cooperation of the Mexican government, CBP will quickly expel ineligible asylum seekers from several countries, back to Mexico. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, called on Congress to provide resources as they prepare for the anticipated surge of asylum applicants and unauthorized entries next month.
DHS announces TPS for Afghan Nationals
Nearly six months after the Taliban seized power of Afghanistan after the withdraw of U.S. troops from the country, DHS announces Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Afghan nationals. On March 16, 2022, Secretary Mayorkas announced TPS designation for Afghanistan for 18 months. TPS is meant to offer protection to Afghan nationals “who are already living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions” caused by ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions.
This designation is also meant to provide added protection to Afghans who have provided aid to U.S. military missions in Afghanistan.
Additionally, TPS will be available to Afghan nationals who entered the U.S. after the mass exodus from the country and were admitted and paroled into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons. Eligibility will only be available to those who entered the U.S. on or before March 15, 2022. Once approved, applicants will be protected from removal and temporary work authorization. Application instructions will be outlined in the Federal Registrar.
Updated Vaccine Requirements for International Travelers
On October 25, 2021, the White House released additional details regarding the COVID-19 vaccine requirements for international travelers.
U.S. Citizen & Lawful Permanent Resident Travelers
|Vaccinated||Must provide evidence of vaccination status & a negative COVID test within 3 days of travel|
|Unvaccinated||Must provide a negative COIVD test within 24 hours of travel|
|Vaccinated||Must provide evidence of vaccination status & a negative COVID test within 3 days of travel|
|Unvaccinated||Must provide a negative COIVD test within 24 hours of travel & qualify for a vaccine exception listed below|
|Under 18||Exempt from vaccine requirement but must provide negative COVID test (ages 2-17)|
|If traveling with a vaccinated adult||Must provide a negative COVID test within 3 days of travel|
|If traveling with unvaccinated adult||Must provide a negative COVID test within 24 hours of travel|
- Children under 18
- COVID-19 clinical trial participants
- Those travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel)
- Those traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC)
Biden’s Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities
On September 30, 2021, USCIS issued a memo outlining the Biden administration’s new immigration enforcement policies. The memo makes it clear that ICE agents are to prioritize the detention or deportation of those suspected of terrorism or pose a national threat to the U.S. Undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes or are recent arrivals (entered the U.S. after November 1, 2020) are also among the priority list for ICE.
After the policy goes into effect on November 29, 2021, ICE agents will not detain undocumented immigrations merely because of their immigration status. Instead, ICE agents will use their limited resources and discretion to pursue undocumented immigrants who may be a threat to border security, public safety, and national security. Undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for an extended period of time and can show they satisfy any of the enumerated mitigating factors are not a priority for deportation. While this policy may be a sigh of relief for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., they are still living in limbo while they wait for a path to work authorization, legal status, and citizenship.
22,000 Additional H-2B Visas Available for the Fiscal Year 2021
H-2B visas are temporary employment-based visas available to non-agricultural employees. H-2B petitions are filed by employers who need seasonal or one-time help because they are unable to find U.S. workers who are able, wiling, or qualified to do temporary work.
Together the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security have authorized the addition of 22,000 H-2B visas to help businesses affected by COVID and will suffer irreparable harm if they cannot hire H-2B workers. 6,000 of those additional visas will be reserved for workers from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador).
This is a one-time increase in visa numbers that will expire in September 2021.
Accidental Voter Registration & Naturalization
As states implement new methods with the intention of making it easier for their residents to vote, they have unintentionally made it more difficult for Lawful Permanent Residents to naturalize and even put them at risk of deportation.
One of the most unforgiving violations of U.S. immigration law is to falsely claim to be a U.S citizen. A false U.S. citizen claim will make a foreign national inadmissible and deportable, and it is nearly impossible to overcome this violation. Upon adjusting their status, Lawful Permanent Residents are carefully advised by attorneys to avoid false claims to U.S. citizenship.
Many states have included the opportunity to register vote with their DMV applications and other state benefit application. While some of these applications ask the applicant to indicate whether they are U.S. citizens, many do not.
As a result, applicants are unknowingly registering to vote after signing these forms. This presents a complication for Lawful Permanent Residents when they apply to naturalize and USCIS notices they are registered to vote. USCIS had previously determined that a Lawful Permanent Resident who registered to vote, intentionally or otherwise, can be denied U.S. citizenship by alleging that they either falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen or they do not meet the “good moral character” requirement to warrant an approval.
USCIS recently updated its policy on this topic. USCIS will not penalize those who unknowingly or unlawfully registered to vote, and will not consider an applicant to have unlawfully registered to vote if they did not complete or sign the voter registration portion of a state benefit application. If an applicant did register to vote, USCIS will not consider it a false claim to U.S. citizenship if the registration form did not contain a question about citizenship, and if it did, the applicant did not affirmatively indicate they were a U.S. citizen. However, the burden is on the applicant to prove the question did not exist or that they did not answer in the affirmative. If the applicant answered in the affirmative, they may be denied immigration benefits based on a false claim to citizenship or lack of “good moral character”.
In sum, Lawful Permanent Residents who are unknowingly registered to vote can still be eligible to naturalize, but they need to prove they did not mean to register and they did not affirm they were U.S. citizens.
The new policy is effective immediately and USCIS will accept comments until June 28, 2021.
Ban on Travel From India will Take Effect on May 4, 2021
The Biden admiration has restricted entry into the U.S. for those traveling from India. The new travel ban is set to take effect Tuesday, May 4th. India has recently seen an extreme spike in positive COVID-19 cases and the government is struggling to contain the spread of the virus and its variants. The new travel ban will look a lot like previous bans imposed early last year:
- U.S citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) will be granted entry
- Anyone arriving in the US will be subject to COVID-19 testing
- Anyone that has not been vaccinated may be subject to a quarantine period of 14 days upon arrival
- Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or LPR and has been in India in the 14 days prior to arrival, will not be granted entry
- There will be narrow exceptions for essential travel
If you are in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and you have to travel to India, schedule an appointment with our team to determine your eligibility for a travel exception.
It’s Official: Biden’s Immigration Reform Proposal is Introduced
On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Citizenship Act was formally introduced to Congress. The proposed bill calls for comprehensive reform to all areas of immigration law. President Biden declared on this first day in office that he intended to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system”. The massive, 353-page bill, proposes innovative solutions to the current and outdated immigration framework that has failed to keep up with the country’s needs.
The bill provides for a pathway to permanent residency and eventually citizenship for those with DACA, TPS or H-2A status.
With the goal of stimulating economic and scientific development, the bill proposes many changes to employment-based immigration including:
- Clearing visa backlogs by increasing per-country caps and exempting Ph.D. graduates working in STEM fields from the green card quota.
- Prioritizing the distribution of H-1B visas by wage offered by employers.
- Work authorization for H-4 dependants.
- Increasing penalties for employers who violate labor laws.
- Extensions of F-1, H-1B, L-1, and O-1 status if the foreign national has a labor certification or I-140 immigrant visa petition pending for over a year.
While the bill is only in the early stages of the legislative process, it will certainly be subject to debate and revisions in an effort to garner bipartisan support.
President Biden’s Immediate Immigration Plan
On January 21, 2020, President Biden signed six presidential executive actions that will affect immigration and visas in the U.S. immediately.
DACA: President Biden has instructed the Department of Homeland Security to preserve and fortify the DACA program and calls for legislation to provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.
Deportation of Liberians: Due to foreign policy reasons, President Biden reinstated and extended Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians that are currently present in the U.S. Granting qualifying applicants protection from deportation, work authorization, and the opportunity to apply for adjustment of status (green card).
The Border Wall: Former President Donald Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border to allocate funds to construct a wall along the border. President Biden terminated the declaration of a national emergency, halted construction of the wall, and plans to reallocate funds to other methods of securing the border.
Census: To ensure that all inhabitants and those living in the U.S. are equally represented, President Biden revoked the previous administration’s order to include immigration status in the national census.
Immigration Enforcement: A previous executive action signed by former President Trump broadly increased interior immigration enforcement by encouraging local authorities to enforce federal immigration laws, and stripped funding from “sanctuary cities”. President Biden revoked this order and will adhere to previous policies regarding the enforcement of civil immigration violations.
Discriminatory Bans on Entry: The so-called “Muslim Ban” was several presidential proclamations and executive orders that prohibited people from primarily Muslim countries from seeking admission into the U.S. People from these countries will once again have the ability to apply for visas/admission and the current administration plans to assess the harms caused by the discriminatory bans.
A memo regarding pending regulatory actions issued by White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, states that pending rules at the Federal Register that have not been published yet must be withdrawn. Also, the effective dates the the rules that have been published but have not taken effect may be postponed.
As a result, the “Strengthening the H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program Final Rule” will be immediately withdrawn. The rule meant to “clarify” how USCIS determines whether there is an “employer-employee relationship” to qualify as a “U.S. Employer.”
The effective date of the “H-1B Wage Selection Final Rule.” will be postponed until March 21, 21. The rule replaced the annual H-1B visa lottery that randomly selects foreign professionals with a process that prioritizes those offered the highest salaries for their occupation and geographic area.
In addition to the signing several executive orders on his first day in office, President Biden has also sent the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021” to Congress. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has announced that he will lead the legislative effort in the Senate to introduce the bill. Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) announced that she will lead the introduction of the bill House of Representatives. The Biden-Harris bill calls for immigration reform that will modernize the current immigration policies to treat noncitizens more humanly and will stimulate the economy.
DACA IS BACK!
In response to a court order issued on 12/4/2020, USCIS has announced that the DACA program will be fully restored, they will resume the previous DACA policies. Meaning USCIS will once again:
- Accept first-time requests for DACA
- Accept DACA renewal requests
- Accept applications for advance parole, and
- Extend current one-year deferred action and employment authorization to two years
Judge Nicolas George Garaufis of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York issued an order requiring the Department of Homeland Security to resume adjudicating DACA applications according to the DACA policy terms in place before September 4, 2017. The order required USCIS to comply with the ruling by 12/7/2020.
The eligibility requirements for first-time applicants are the following:
- The applicant arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday
- The applicant was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
- The applicant has continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
- The applicant has graduated from high school or is currently enrolled or is an honorably discharged veteran
- The applicant is over 15 years old (with some exceptions)
- The applicant has not been convicted of disqualifying crimes and does not pose a threat to national security or public safety
Newly eligible applicants:
- The applicant turned 15 years old after the program was rescinded in 2017 and they had previously met the eligibility requirements.
Advanced Parole allows applicants to travel temporarily outside of the U.S. for humanitarian, employment of educational reasons and re-enter the U.S. lawfully.
If DACA recipients received deferred action and work authorization for only one year (according to the July 2020 DHS memo), their current status has been extended to two years.
For assistance with renewing your DACA deferred action and work authorization or with applying for the first time, please send an email to DACA@cyavisalaw.com for more information.