Two years into dealing with Covid-19, the world is still trying to cope with the ever-changing numbers of the pandemic. A large group of people heavily impacted by the constant changes in regulations is the immigrants and those who look forward to it. The travel restrictions such as vaccination, PCR tests, and quarantine are only the basic requirements to enter a new border. The authorities constantly update US immigration regulations to provide maximum facilitation to the immigrants while prioritizing health measures to keep the virus cases from rising.
Let’s look at the latest immigration updates in Covid-19 times and their impact on non-US residents.
Effects of Covid-19 on Immigrants and NonImmigrants Abroad
The spread of Coronavirus impacted the mobility of non-permanent visa holders in the US and those stuck abroad. During the peak Covid-19 time, services across all US embassies and visa centers were suspended to curb the spread of the virus. This impacted the processes of all immigrant and nonimmigrant hopefuls. However, consular office(s) operations slowly began to reopen as the virus fell under control with the strict implementation of the SOPs and the arrival of vaccinations.
Changes In Immigration Procedures and Visa Applications
As the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) continues to operate under restrictive methods, the administrative process has implemented some flexible measures, which have been in effect since 1st January 2022. Those flexible processes or accommodations are as follows:
1. The USCIS will consider the following requests from specific industries within 60 days of application:
• Request for Evidence
• Continuations to Request Evidence
• Notices of Intent to Deny
• Notices of Intent to Revoke
• Notices of Intent to Rescind
• Notices of Intent to Termination Regional Centers
• Motions to Reopen an N-400 Under 8 CFR 335.5
• Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant
2. Following the recent spike in Covid-19, the international borders of certain countries are closing down again, and the USCIS has allowed US citizens with expired passports to return to the U.S. without renewing. This facilitative measure is valid untill the 31st of March but the mandate only applies to individuals whose passports have expired on the 1st of January or later.
3. Moreover, the USCIS plans to reopen some of the local visa centers and start processing asylum claims, permanent residency cases, and green card processing. So far it has not been identified which offices will be reopening and in which areas. However, they have notified that appointments scheduled before the closing down will be rescheduled, and the applicants will be informed.
4. Unfortunately, appointments for visas for all US immigrants and nonimmigrants at U.S. Consultate offices worldwide remained postponed, and no particular date has been announced for the reopening of regular visa processing services.
5. To maintain social distancing, the USCIS has allowed certain applicants’ visa processes to be continued without interviews at the U.S. Consular Offices. These applicants include:
• Nonimmigrants who need to renew their visas within the same visa category and expiration is no older than 48 months.
• Eligible H-2 applicants.
• Temporary employment nonimmigrants applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas.
• Students, teachers, and specialists applying for F, M, and J Academic Visas.
The spread of Covid-19 is showing no sign of slowing down as new variants develop daily. The authorities update US immigration depending on the rise and fall in Covid cases. It is best to stay in the U.S. instead of flying out and falling prey to the travel ban, as each country has its own set of rules to deal with the pandemic. On the other side, if you are a for