On June 22, 2020, then-President Trump issued Presidential Proclamation 10052 (PP 10052), which suspended the entry of certain nonimmigrants into the United States effective June 24, 2020. At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to worsen all over the world, including in the United States. From February to May of 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate nearly quadrupled. The President determined that the entry into the country of certain categories of nonimmigrant workers at that time posed an unusual threat to the employment of American workers, which was already in jeopardy.
The President concluded that it was in the best interests of the United States economy to suspend the entry of those nonimmigrants, including applicants for H-1B, H-2B, J and L visas. The proclamation was intended to expire on December 31, 2020, but provided for the possibility of extension if necessary. The President did extend the proclamation through March 31, 2021, when it was allowed to expire.
What does the expiration of PP 10052 mean for nonimmigrants who were previously banned from the United States by the proclamation, and what should foreign workers expect in terms of consular processing?
In general, the expiration of PP 10052 is positive and is a step in a direction to restoring the reputation of the United States as a welcoming country. That said, foreign nationals hoping to immediately resume previous plans for employment in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa should expect to wait a while for a visa.
While nonimmigrant visas are now eligible to be processed, the expiration of PP 10052 does not mean that consular processing will be immediate. Numerous consular posts, especially those in the Schengen, U.K., and Ireland area, have emphasized that they will be prioritizing the processing of immigrant visas over nonimmigrant visas at this time.
That doesn’t mean that no nonimmigrant visas will be issued. It just means that applicants should understand the limitations under which consular posts are operating at this time, and recognize that there will be a backlog in processing nonimmigrant visas for some time. At the moment, criteria for the issuance of nonimmigrant visas following the repeal of the travel ban are unclear.
As of this writing, the National Visa Center has a backlog of about 500,000 documentarily qualified immigrant visa cases. That backlog appears to be a primary reason for committing the resources of consular posts to immigrant visas rather than nonimmigrant visas.
The U.S. Department of State initially suspended routine visa services throughout the world in the wake of the pandemic’s onset and growth. As of July, 2020, U.S. embassies and consulates began to phase in those services again on a post-by-post basis. The resumption of routine visa services is prioritized behind services to U.S. citizens.
As conditions specific to each consular post or embassy improve, each post will gradually begin providing additional services until it is able to completely resume routine visa services. Unfortunately, it is not clear when each mission will be able to resume offering services at the level it did prior to the pandemic. The Department of State is monitoring local conditions that will affect the resumption of services in locations where there is a U.S. presence. Those conditions include levels of COVID-19 cases, available medical infrastructure, and emergency response capabilities.
All consular posts and embassies continue to offer mission-critical services. Applicants who have an urgent reason for immediate travel should contact their nearest consulate or embassy to schedule an emergency appointment using the contact information on the consulate or embassy’s website.
The Department of State is mindful of the reality that while vaccines have begun to be available, the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a serious risk to people in the U.S. and abroad. In order to protect the health of employees and service recipients, extra measures are being taken to prevent infection. Unfortunately, these measures may also mean that it may take longer for applicants to receive an appointment or interview.
While visa services will be resuming, there are still some travel restrictions in place pursuant to other COVID-19 proclamations, including Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143. Those proclamations, which restrict the entry of individuals physically present in certain countries or regions remain in effect.
Individuals who were physically present in the following locales within the fourteen day period immediately prior to their attempt to enter the United States are restricted from entry:
If you have questions about these restrictions or about the consular processing of nonimmigrant visas following the expiration of Presidential Proclamation 10052, please contact our law office to schedule a consultation.