Published April 6, 2021
By Richard Hanus, Esq.
Visa Bans: On April 20, 2020, as it became obvious the pandemic was neither a hoax nor a societal challenge that would simply “disappear”, President Trump tweeted: “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Well, immigration, in its entirety was not suspended, although the tweet was geared to present that very message to specific segments of his base. In a set of tweets in the days that followed, however, Trump was forced to clarify what exactly a measure to “suspend immigration” meant. In sum, it meant many aspects of overseas, temporary and permanent visa processing were indeed suspended, but not all legal immigration processes came to a halt, as the tweet implied.
Since President Biden has taken office, the series of restrictions featured in Trump tweeted immigration proclamations have gradually expired or been revoked. The most recent to expire relate to the ban on overseas issuance of new temporary work visas at U.S. consular posts abroad. With the Biden administration taking no action to extend the ban, new work visas can now be issued for key, sorely needed, scientists, healthcare workers, business executives, engineers and other specialty occupation workers and professionals who have been waiting overseas to fill key positions in the U.S.
The Biden Administration also recently terminated the ban on immigrant visa issuance, a policy that had prevented the overseas green card processing of many incoming family and employment based immigrants – although the very same legal processes for those present in the U.S. and applying for permanent residence stateside had never been stopped.
Now that these bans are things of the past, foreign nationals needing new visas to travel to the U.S. still must overcome the challenges created by a severely reduced corps of U.S. Foreign Service officers at U.S. consular posts, as well as huge backlogs for securing new interview appointments. Add to the mix the various Covid related travel restrictions still in effect in many countries and regions of the world – e,g, Schengen region, and the path to the U.S. for a foreign national on a new visa remains a complicated one, albeit with one less hurdle.
Blank Space Rejections: Imagine fleeing for your life from your homeland, arriving in the U.S., submitting a 12 page application (not including supporting documentation) detailing your fears of returning home, and then after 3 months, having the filing returned to you, rejected and unprocessed because you left one small box uncompleted. Sadly, this was indeed the reality for thousands of applicants for asylum and U visas (victims of certain crimes). Moreover, in response to such rejections, applicants would send in corrected applications, only then to have their applications again rejected in Kafkaesque fashion, for failure to complete another newly discovered blank space.
The unforgiving “blank space” rejection policy was just one among the many avenues through which the Trump administration attempted to thwart or substantially complicate, legal immigration processes. In fact those types of wrenches in the system came to be seen as bricks in the Trump administration’s “invisible wall”, where access to legal immigration process became increasingly forbidding.
In the past week, the Biden Administration announced the end of this cruel policy. No longer will asylum or U visa applications be held in abeyance for months or rejected simply because of one or two inconsequential spaces, among hundreds of possible fields, were left uncompleted, or without “not applicable” filled in.
PUBLISHED April 6, 2021– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2021, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois