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by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

U.S. To Reopen Canadian/Mexican Land Borders to Vaccinated Travelers

The Biden administration has announced that starting in November 2021 (although no exact date has been announced), the border restrictions at the U.S./Canadian & U.S./Mexican borders will be lifted for fully vaccinated travelers.  Unvaccinated travelers will continue to be banned from crossing the borders with Mexico or Canada. Those who were never banned from traveling across the land borders, including essential workers, commercial drivers and students, will also need to show proof of vaccination starting in January 2022.

Those entering at the Mexico or Canada borders will be questioned by Customs and Border Protection officers about their vaccination status before being allowed to cross. The officers will have the discretion to send travelers to secondary screenings to have their documents checked.  The decision on the land borders was made in part to coincide with the reopening to fully vaccinated foreign air travelers (although no formal announcement of this change has been made yet). While those traveling by air will need to show both proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States, there will be no testing requirement for those crossing the land border.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers people fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s.  Those who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca’s, would also be considered fully vaccinated (a standard one senior official said would probably be applied to those crossing the land border). Officials added that the C.D.C. was still discussing whether foreigners crossing from Canada or Mexico with two doses from different vaccines could enter.

The decision to lift the restrictions on air travel has been celebrated by business leaders overseas and in the United States. Travel spending dropped nearly in half to about $600 billion in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group.

by Adrianna Romero Adrianna Romero No Comments

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.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

USCIS Sending I-693 Medical Exam Courtesy Notices

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.

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

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.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

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.

by Sarah Collins Sarah Collins No Comments

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.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

Proof of COVID Vaccination Required for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence

Starting October 1, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and the U.S. Department of State (“USDOS”) will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all applicants applying for lawful permanent residence.  Specifically, all applicants who complete heir medical examinations on or after October 1, 2021, must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination. This change will impact anyone who completes Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, on or after October 1, 2021. If Form I-693 is completed before October 1, 2021, and remains valid, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be required. Waivers are available for applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine, have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, or who do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in their countries. In addition, individuals may apply for an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions with USCIS.

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

USCIS Extends Validity of Medical Exam

On August 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made the announcement that it is temporarily increasing the validity of the medical examination that is submitted in conjunction with an application for permanent residence. Specifically, the Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record is a document required as part of the process to apply for permanent residency in the United States. Previously, this form was valid for two years after the date of the U.S. civil surgeon’s signature so long as the medical form was submitted not more than 60 days before the applicant submitted their application for permanent residence. Now, this new rule extends this two-year validity to four years. Driven by COVID-related processing delays, this extension will prevent applicants from having to request a costly new medical examination before their application can be approved. Although temporary and only applicable to applications that are approved on or before September 30, 2021, this change will enable more streamlined processing of applications and will hopefully help in clearing out the processing backlog caused by COVID-19.

by Caroline Lee Caroline Lee No Comments

New I-485 Form Required Soon; Updated Form Allows Applicants to Request a New or Replacement Social Security Card

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that starting Oct. 13, 2021, it will only accept the 03/29/21 edition of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Additionally, USCIS announced that applicants filing for lawful permanent resident status are now able to apply for a Social Security number (SSN) or replacement card as part of the adjustment of status application process. Previously, these individuals had to apply for a Social Security number at a Social Security office. The revised form now includes the additional questions needed to apply for an SSN or replacement card.

Following approval of Form I-485, USCIS stated that in most cases it will electronically transmit the data to the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration will then automatically assign an original SSN or issue a replacement card, as appropriate. The filing fee for form I-485 will not increase as a result of this change.

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