The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, was first reported appearing in China in late 2019. Since that time, it has spread around the world and was officially named a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020.
Beginning in January 2020, the Trump administration began taking concrete actions that have critically impacted immigration policy and process.
Here is a brief overview of major changes:
January 31, 2020, Presidential Proclamation: Banned travel from nonimmigrants if they were in China for the last 14 days.
February 29, 2020, Presidential Proclamation: Banned travel from nonimmigrants if they were in Iran for the last 14 days.
March 11, 2020, Presidential Proclamation: Banned travel from nonimmigrants if they were in the Schengen Area of Europe for the last 14 days. The Schengen Area is comprised of 28 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland were added in a separate Presidential Proclamation on March 14, 2020.
March 17, 2020, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) statement: cancels all non-detained hearings.
March 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) statement: closes all USCIS offices to the public until April 1.
March 18, 2020, U.S. Department of State (DOS) statement: all U.S. visa services are suspended. U.S. citizens are advised to return to the U.S. and not to travel outside of the U.S.
March 18, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statement: refocuses enforcement priorities to those who are a public safety risk or subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds.
March 18, 2020, President Trump statement: U.S. and Canada to suspend travel between the two countries. On March 20, 2020, both the U.S. and Canada issued the “Joint Statement on US-Canada Joint Initiative” announcing that the U.S. and Canada are temporarily restricting all non-essential travel across its borders. “Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. The Joint Statement states, “the U.S. and Canada recognize it is critical we preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains, including trucking, will not be impacted by this new measure. Americans and Canadians also cross the land border every day to do essential work or for other urgent or essential reasons, and that travel will not be impacted.”
This decision was implemented on March 21, 2020, at which time the U.S. and Canada temporarily restricted all non-essential travel across the US-Canada land border. The measure will be in place for 30 days, at which point it will be reviewed by both parties.
March 20, 2020, USCIS statement: USCIS will accept electronic signatures on all immigration forms filed after March 21, including forms to request temporary work visas.
March 20, 2020, ICE statement: ICE will permit employers to electronically review I-9 documents, which verify whether an employee is authorized to work in the U.S. if the business has implemented a teleworking policy due to the virus. ICE will also give employers an extra 60 days to respond to audits if they were served with a notice of inspection in March.
March 20, 2020, USCIS statement: USCIS will suspend all premium processing for I-129 and I-140 forms for employer petitions.
March 20, 2020, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notice: limits travel between the U.S. and Mexico to “essential travel.” This is a similar initiative to the US-Canada border initiative.
Many of these changes require clarification, such as how to obtain waivers of the travel bans, how to prepare the employer’s workforce, and how to communicate with the agencies regarding rescheduled appointments. Leech Tishman’s Immigration Group is anticipating additional statements and policy changes to come. For questions on any updates, feel free to contact Cristina Perez at 818.550.8300 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Sharon Barney at 814.954.5904 or email@example.com.
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