The past few months have been conspicuous for the United States in that, there have been more entry and exit bans announced than anything else. Some of this was triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic while most of others was a governmental decision by the United States of America to restrict over all immigration into the country.
On April 22, 2020 President Trump signed an executive order restricting entry of new green card applicants.
By June 24, 2020, he signed another proclamation restricting entry of H, L, J visa holders and their dependents who were outside of the US as of the date of the proclamation going into effect.
On July 6, 2020, he announced some international students on F1 visas to deport by August in case they had to take online classes in Fall due to the pandemic.
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All these bans are effective until December 31, 2020… for now… until it is revised and extended.
With shelter in place for most parts of the world and the US, several US consulates and USCIS offices still closed for in-person, non-emergent appointments and Covid related travel restrictions still in place, all these entry bans is going to impact about several thousand foreign workers, their family members and international students both inand outside the US.
Exemptions To The US Immigration Bans
So, who can enter the US from now until December 31, 2020?
Exemptions To The New Green Card Applicant Entry Ban
While the executive order banned new green card applicants from entering the United States, the following are exempted:
- Dependents, i.e. spouse and children (under 18 years) of US citizens;
- Healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, scientific researchers and other essential workers working towards Coronavirus;
- Anyone of US ‘national interest’ including members of the US armed forces and law enforcement and their immediate family members;
- EB-5 investors;
Exemptions To The Europe Entry Ban
In March 2020, the US banned entry for anyone coming directly from Europe and this included 26 Schengen countries as well as UK, Ireland and Brazil. In an amendment announced in July, the following are exempted from this entry ban:
- International students holding F1 and M1 visas;
- Business visa holders who currently hold an ESTA authorization;
- Anyone who is eligible and qualifies for the National Interest Exception that include healthcare professionals, professors and research scholars as well those impacting US economy including investors and treaty-traders;
- Those holding an E-1 or E-2 visa and
- Professional athletes, technical experts/specialists and their dependents.
Exemptions To The H1-B & L1 Entry Ban
The proclamation bans entry of non-immigrant, temporary foreign workers and their families who were outside of the US after June 34, 2020. The following non-immigrant, foreign workers can still enter the US:
- Spouses and dependents who are currently outside the US, are exempted from the entry ban if the primary beneficiary is in the US. The dependents including minors are allowed to apply for a new H4 visa and travel to the US to join their spouses in the US.
- Anyone of these non-immigrants who were in the US at the time of the proclamation – they can go out and come back in;
- Any of these work visa holders who may have any other travel documents (Advance parole, I-131, Reentry permit) other than a visa allowing them to travel to the United States;
- Those who have valid visas in the relevant classification at the time of the proclamation;
- Medical professionals and other specialists that cater to US foreign policy objectives and have been requested by the a US government agency like the Department of Defense to come to the US.
Exemptions To The J1 Entry Ban
J1 visa holders are included in the entry ban until December 31, 2020. The following J1 visa holders can still travel in and out of the US:
- Those coming in the US to provide care for a minor US citizen, green card holder or non-immigrant on a lawful visa;
- Those providing supportive child care for anyone in the healthcare profession working for Covid care and prevention in the US;
- Those au pairs who provide care for minors with special needs as documented by a qualified doctor;
- J1 visa holders essential to the US food production & supply;
- J1 visa holders coming in as government visitors, research scholars, and specialists;
- J1 visa holders coming into help with US economic recovery;
- Interns and trainees with government agency sponsored programs;
- J1 visa holders critical to the US armed forces, law enforcement, and national security;
- Eligible specialized teachers in accredited educational institutions;
- J1 visa holders involved with Covid-19’s medical care, & research.
What Should You Do If you Qualify For An Exemption?
Any of the above contenders who believe that they qualify for an exceptions to the travel and immigration bans should do the following:
- Prepare to apply for the appropriate visa that applies to you for travel to the US. You may consult an immigration lawyer to verify your choice.
- Fill out the appropriate visa forms and support with evidentiary documentation including why you qualify for the exemption.
- If you are dependent wanting to travel to the US on a dependent visa like H4 or L2, have copies of the primary beneficiaries’ approved visa and other paperwork ready.
- Make an appointment with a visa officer at your local consular center. Although most US consulates have resumed regular operations, some local shelter-in-person regulations may not allow in person services. In this case, request for an emergency appointment.