Immigration and Travel to the US: Update

End of immigration suspension

Unsurprisingly, quietly and with little media attention, the restrictions on the issuance of nonimmigrant visas H-1B, L-1 and J-1, which had been in force since June 24, 2020, expired on March 31st. Since then, US consulates around the world have restarted the issuance of H-1B, L-1 and J-1 visas without the need for an additional request for a national interest exception. This joins the elimination of the suspension on immigrant visas or ‘Green Cards’ ordered by President Biden on February 24 and that we already discussed in our article Important news about immigration to the US.

Therefore, US consulates have restarted the processing of visas that had been blocked and have started accepting new visa applications. It is expected that it will take some time before consular activity normalizes given the gigantic traffic jam generated during these 8 months. 

Bans on travel to the US

As already indicated in our article 7 Conclusions of my Conversation with 2 Ambassadors and according to the words of the Spanish Ambassador to the US, no reliable prediction can be made about when the US government will decide to relax the entry bans that affect, with some exceptions, travelers who have been in the last 14 days in countries of the Schengen area (which includes Spain), the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, China and Iran. It is still possible to travel to the US when you have a valid visa or an approved ESTA if the 14 prior to entry into the US have been spent in countries not included in this list. The current bans affecting travelers from Schengen, UK, Ireland, Brazil and South Africa are governed by the presidential order (” proclamation “) 10143 of January 25, 2021 signed by President Biden, which replaced those of the previous president. 

Hardly any changes have been made to the travel bans that we explained in detail in our June 2020 article Status of prohibitions on international travelers and limitations on immigration. In fact, some of the scenarios that allowed access to a ‘National Interest Exception’ granted by the US Embassies, which authorized travel in certain cases, were eliminated at the end of March 2021 .

A piece of news that allows for some hope for positive changes in the near future is indicated on April 26 by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. In a statement to the New York Times, he was of the opinion that US citizens who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are likely to be allowed to travel to Europe this summer, provided that the number of new cases has decreased. Although there is no guarantee that the measure would be applied symmetrically by the US, it is to be expected that there may be a similar decision. This would be aligned with the growing climate of collaboration between the US and the EU on various fronts such as tariffs, trade, global warming and others, in addition to the enormous interest on the part of the tourism industry and the airlines of both blocs in being able to progressively normalize travel. 

As always, it is advisable to visit the website of the closest US consulate for updated information and to connect with their representatives when necessary, for any clarification, before planning a trip to the US.