Last June, the White House issued a work visa ban that affected many foreign workers and their spouses who were trying to move into the country. However, at the end of March, President Biden allowed this ban to expire, opening the floodgates for visa processing to resume.
What Has Changed?
The June 2020 ban had stopped the issuance of H-1B visas for skilled workers, as well as H-4 visas for their spouses. It also affected applicants for L visas and J-1 visas. Now that the ban has lifted, foreign nationals are once again able to apply for these visas.
But while many are hoping for the visa program to pick up where it left off, we may be far from a return to normalcy.
Expect Delays, Even With Restrictions Lifted
While the application process has opened back up, there are still restrictions and roadblocks in place that could prevent applicants from making any actual progress. For example, some pandemic-related travel orders remain in effect, restricting many nationals from Brazil, China, Europe and South Africa.
Additionally, consulates may only be partially operational due to the ongoing pandemic and lack of funds. As of February 2021, there were nearly 500,000 immigrant visa cases pending and ready for interviews at these consulates – over six times as many as the year before.
The State Department has also stated that they will be prioritizing those seeking permanent residency, as well as fiancée and other family visas. Those submitting new applications for temporary work visas may have to wait months for their application to get processed.
What You Can Do To Prepare
If you wish to apply for entry to the U.S., or if your business is seeking to sponsor a foreign worker for entry, you will still want to act quickly to get all documentation and paperwork submitted. Be sure all information is accurate and you follow all correct procedures, as any mistakes could prolong the process even further.
For some businesses, remote solutions may offer some advantages as you wait for your employee to receive their visa. For unexpected and urgent business needs, you may request an expedited appointment, though the backlog for these may be substantial as well.
Lastly, continue to check for updates to U.S. immigration law and policy. We are still in the first months of a new administration, and many are hoping that more will be done to ease restrictions and backlogs over the course of 2021.