State Department Provides Guidance on the Resumption of Immigrant Visa Processing After President Biden’s Rescission of the Immigrant Visa Ban

State Department Provides Guidance on the Resumption of Immigrant Visa Processing After President Biden’s Rescission of the Immigrant Visa Ban

On February 24, 2021, President Biden rescinded Presidential Proclamation 10014, section 1 of Proclamation 10052, and section 1 of Proclamation 10131, declaring that former President Trump’s ban on immigrant visas not only fails to advance United States interests, but actually harms those interests by preventing family reunification, depriving industries of access to needed talent, and denying Green Cards to Fiscal Year 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery winners. While the elimination of the immigrant visa ban has been received as a welcome development, it has disappointed those who have urged President Biden to go a step further and rescind Presidential Proclamation 10052, which suspends the entry of certain nonimmigrants due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

After Proclamation 10014 was rescinded, Department of State provided an informational update on immigrant visa processing, a summary of which follows:

  • Department of State will resume processing of immigrant visa applications for applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for interview, in accordance with Department of State’s “phased resumption of visa services framework.”
  • Department of State will reconsider certain immigrant visa applications which were refused after interview because of Proclamation 10014. Applicants whose petitions remain valid should wait for case-specific instructions from the responsible U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Instructions for Diversity Visa 2020 applicants, including:
    • Holders of valid DV-2020 visas bearing the annotation “Entry Subject to PP 10014” may seek entry to the United States immediately;
    • Holders of expired DV-2020 visas should use these visas to travel to the United States “as soon as practicable,” but only in the case of those expired DV-2020 visas that were issued as a result of the Gomez v. Trump court case. Expired DV-2020 visas that were not issued pursuant to Gomez v. Trump are not valid for entry to the United States;
    • Granting a national interest exception for DV-2020 applicants who hold a valid immigrant visa, thereby exempting these applicants from the geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations which suspend entry of certain persons who were physically present in the People’s Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, or South Africa, in the 14-day period before entering or attempting to enter the United States;
    • Defining as ineligible for further DV-2020 visa processing those DV-2020 applicants who were not issued visas before the close of the 2020 fiscal year on September 30, 2020.
    • DV-2021 applicants will be notified of visa interview scheduling “in accordance with the phased resumption of visa services framework.”
  • Clarifying that the geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations suspending entry of persons who were physically present in any of the affected countries (People’s Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, or South Africa) in the 14-day period before seeking entry to the United States, remain in effect, but do not apply to spouses and children of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents. This exemption does not apply to K-1 fiancé(e) applicants and all other immigrant visa applicants who are otherwise subject to the geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations, unless these applicants qualify for a different exception.
  • While continuing to focus on emergency and mission-critical visa services, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, U.S. embassies and consulates have resumed routine visa services, with plans to restore routine visa services completely, as local conditions and safety considerations allow on a post-by-post basis.

After waiting so long to be interviewed for an immigrant visa, a reasonable question for many applicants with pending cases is how much longer the process will take. Unfortunately, the State Department’s February 24, 2021 announcement does not address timelines and goals for scheduling and completion of immigrant visa interviews. Nonetheless, I expect that visa processing timelines will vary by consular post and will depend on the number of cases awaiting interview and the allocation of consular officers to interview immigrant applicants. Immigrant visa applicants should check the U.S. embassy or consulate website where their case is pending for pertinent visa services availability and processing information.

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