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Can I Immigrate to the United States during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Shortly after taking office in January 2021, United States President Joe Biden signed executive orders reversing many of the anti-immigration policies enacted by his predecessor. However, he also made the unusual move of directly addressing migrants amassing at the southern border with Mexico, and he urged them to stay put because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biden administration has continued the Trump-era practice of expelling migrants on the spot without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum. The rationale in this case has also been related to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, which has been a specter hanging over the presidency for the last two years. There’s no question the coronavirus pandemic has upended American immigration, but it hasn’t stopped it completely. Two years after the pandemic was declared, under certain circumstances, you can still immigrate to the U.S.

Current Status of U.S. International Travel Restrictions

As of mid-January 2022, strict international travel bans are pretty much gone. Foreigners who are fully vaccinated and can submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 24 hours prior to arrival will be allowed to enter as long as they’re deemed admissible. Medical and humanitarian vaccine exemptions must be cleared by the Centers for Disease Control.

Operating Restrictions at U.S. Embassies & Consulates

Foreigners who are in need of visa stamps and interviews should visit the websites of their respective U.S. embassies to learn about their hours of operation and COVID-19 restrictions. Invariably, American embassies will closely follow the public health measures local governments implement. For example, the U.S. embassy in Nairobi was pretty much closed from before Christmas until the end of January 2022 because of widespread COVID-19 contagion in Kenya.

H-1B Visa Flexibility

Pursuant to the aforementioned embassy restrictions, the U.S. Department of State allowed visa adjudicators abroad to waive the interview requirement for foreign skilled workers who apply for H-1B visas. This waiver has made the H-1B visa process more flexible at a time when certain sectors of the American economy are experiencing worker shortages. It should be noted that this waiver doesn’t extend to H-1B visa workers who are seeking adjustment of status. If you’re hoping to move to Southern California for work and you’re unsure about how to obtain an H-1B visa, seek the advice of an experienced immigration lawyer in San Diego.

Immigration Form Signature Flexibility

In March 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services implemented a measure to accept electronic signatures on forms and petitions submitted to the agency. This exception to wet signatures, which have been a requirement for many decades, was extended to February 2022, and it may become permanent as the American immigration system starts transitioning to electronic form filing over the next four years. Even though this signature measure is currently being implemented to reduce in-person contact and mitigate COVID-19 contagion, it may be here to stay, and this will make it easier for immigration law firms to work with their clients in the future.

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.

July 2024