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Most Recent Updates: Coronavirus & Immigration

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has been strongly felt by many federal agencies, particularly those that deal with immigration, travel, and border security. Even before the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020, immigration was already on the verge of collapse because of the policies of the Trump administration and the highly erratic management of agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security. Shortly after the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections were reported in the U.S., the White House issued a series of dubious orders that effectively brought immigration to a screeching halt.

After 10 months of dealing with quarantine, lockdown, and social distancing restrictions, the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization for two COVID-19 vaccines. While this is certainly hopeful news, the contagion and mortality rates are surging and making things difficult in many parts of the country. Greater hope is provided by the prospect of President-elect Joe Biden taking office in January 2021.

The blanket restriction on immigration issued in April 2020 is expected to remain in effect until the end of the year. This restriction mostly affects foreigners outside the U.S. because they’re barred from entry if they don’t already have green cards or valid visas. Processing of green cards at embassies abroad is still suspended until further notice. Legal analysts are divided on their opinions as to whether this restriction will be lifted on the first day of 2021. 

Non-immigrant skilled workers with H-1B, H-2B, and L-1 visas can’t return to the U.S. if they weren’t in the country on June 24th and don’t have valid travel documents. The only exception to this restriction applies to healthcare workers involved in COVID-19 relief operations. With regard to foreign workers whose visas expire while they’re in the U.S. in the middle of the pandemic, they have a 60-day grace period to exit the country without facing penalties or detention for unlawful permanence. If you fall into this category, make sure to stay up to date with an immigration law firm, and be prepared to contact an immigration lawyer in San Diego in case of detention.

Applicants who are in the U.S. seeking work permits, green cards, or work visas aren’t affected by the aforementioned restrictions. However, they’re still facing backlogs and inefficiency at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services offices around the country. The Trump rhetoric about blocking foreign workers from the U.S. job market has mostly fizzled. His idea was to let Americans be first in line to get their jobs back after the pandemic, but he was challenged in federal court and lost.

It’s unclear whether Trump and what remains of his cabinet will bother to lift or soften immigration restrictions past December 31st. What’s more likely to happen is that the administration of President-elect Joe Biden will rush to review the situation and take immediate action by means of reversals, executive orders, and quick rule changes. Immigration reform will likely be a hot-button issue for the Biden administration, but such an effort will take years to unfold.

If you’re concerned about how the pandemic could affect your ability to live and work in the United States, reach out to the best immigration lawyers in San Diego. At KS Visa Law, we specialize in naturalization, family law immigration, temporary employment visas, and much more. Call 858-874-0711 today to learn more.

May 2024