Business Immigration in a Minute by Honigman LLP
- With the rise of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the White House announced the implementation of a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy that toughens pre-departure COVID-19 testing protocols for inbound international travelers ages two years and older. Under this new policy that goes into effect today, December 6, 2021, the United States will require inbound international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 within one day of departure for the United States, regardless of their vaccination status or nationality. This new policy replaces the previous policy that fully vaccinated travelers were required to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of departure.
- In response to the Omicron COVID-19 variant, effective November 29, 2021, the White House issued a proclamation suspending and limiting the entry for certain foreign nationals who were physically present in the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. This proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and immediate family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, among others.
- Recently, the American Immigration Lawyers Association interviewed the outgoing Chief of the Department of State (“DOS”) Visa Control and Reporting Division, Charlie Oppenheim, to discuss the major takeaways of the December 2021 Visa Bulletin before he retires this month. Notably, EB-2 India advanced six months in the December 2021 Visa Bulletin, which Charlie explained was because DOS decided to “step on the gas early” in December to test the EB-2 demand. He indicated that DOS then plans to pull back on advancement with the possibility of advancing again later in the fiscal year. For this reason, Charlie indicated that the movement in the January 2022 Visa Bulletin may be more indicative of what we may optimistically expect for the next several months. Additionally, Charlie identified that EB-3 overseas processing has increased at a higher rate than expected. If EB-3 processing continues to increase at a very high rate, Charlie explained that it may deplete the numbers available for use under the worldwide annual limit and could require the implementation of a worldwide cutoff date. However, Charlie noted that this is not likely to become an issue until the second half of the fiscal year and, if this were necessary, there would be advance notice in the Visa Bulletin. DOS has not yet released any information on who will replace Charlie as Chief of the DOS Visa Control and Reporting Division after his retirement, but has confirmed that @TravelGov will continue to host chats on consular-related issues.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) is hosting a listening session on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, from 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST for stakeholders to provide feedback on ways to modernize and simplify regulations governing Form I-140 adjudications. This is the first in a series of listening sessions that USCIS will host in the coming months to seek input on business and foreign worker-related policy considerations. To register, please visit the USCIS website here.
- DOS rescinded its November 2020 guidance to consular posts on the prioritization of consular services. Embassies and consulates can now decide how they will prioritize visa appointments and are no longer required to prioritize immigrant visas over nonimmigrant visas. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is now focusing on reducing wait times for consular services in all embassies and consulates.
- USCIS issued a policy alert that it is incorporating and superseding existing guidance from the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (“AFM”) into the USCIS Policy Manual addressing topics in the context of general adjudications, including evidence, sworn statements, and adjudicative decisions. This update is in line with USCIS’ May 2020 announcement that it is retiring the AFM and incorporating all of the AFM content into the USCIS Policy Manual. This update does not make major substantive changes and, instead, serves to consolidate and incorporate existing AFM guidance on general adjudications topics into the Policy Manual, streamline USCIS immigration policy, and remove obsolete information.
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