Business Immigration in a Minute by Honigman LLP

  • The most significant development of the past week was that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) reinstated its 2004 deference policy regarding petition and application extensions on April 27, 2021. The reinstated policy, which was previously rescinded in 2017 under the Trump Administration, states that USCIS will give deference to prior determinations when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts unless there was a material error, material change in circumstances or in eligibility, or new material information that adversely impacts the eligibility of the petitioner, applicant, or beneficiary.

  • On advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) due to surging cases of COVID-19 in India, President Biden issued a proclamation on April 30, 2021 suspending the entry of certain nonimmigrants into the United States who were physically present in India during the 14-day period preceding their entry. The proclamation will not apply to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, among others. The proclamation will go into effect tomorrow, May 4, 2021.

  • On April 23, 2021, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi announced that it would cancel in-person visa appointments and interview-waiver appointments from April 26, 2021 to May 9, 2021 as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in India. However, officials said they would make “every attempt” to honor scheduled emergency appointments. The Embassy stated that the U.S. Consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata continue to offer limited visa services, but cautioned that they may cancel appointments as necessary due to local COVID-19 conditions. Due to the COVID-19 surge in India, the Department of State (“DOS”) and the CDC also urge individuals to refrain from traveling to India during this time and encourage U.S. citizens who are currently in India to depart the country, if possible.

  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced on April 26, 2021 that it would extend the March 2020 guidance for F and M students for the 2021-2022 academic year. The guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the continuing public health concerns created by COVID-19. The March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020 and are otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status, whether from inside the United States or abroad. Currently, this policy does not extend to any newly incoming students for the 2021-2022 academic year who will be enrolling in fully online programs in the United States. However, this guidance does apply to new students for the 2021-2022 academic year who will be enrolling in hybrid programs that include both in-person and online components in excess of the regulatory limits.

  • On April 26, 2021, DOS expanded eligibility for national interest exceptions (“NIE”) to the regional COVID-19 travel bans in place for travelers entering the United States from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa, bringing them in line with the existing NIE criteria for travelers from Ireland, the Schengen Area, and the United Kingdom. NIE eligibility now exists under all of the regional bans for F and M students, certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs, journalists, and those seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure.

  • The Department of Homeland Security announced that it is giving individuals an additional 19 months to obtain state driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards that comply with the requirements of the REAL ID Act due to continued state government disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline for REAL ID Act compliance has now been postponed from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023.

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