May 2021 Newsletter
1. May 2021 Visa Bulletin: Advancement in Most Employment-based Categories; Slow Advancement in Family-based Categories
The U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) released the Visa Bulletin for May 2021, which shows advancement in most employment-based categories, and slow advancement in family-based categories. The cutoff dates for issuance of employment-based immigrant visas are as follows:
EB-1: All countries are current.
EB-2: China advanced 3 months to December 1, 2016; India advanced 3 months to August 1, 2010. All other countries are current.
EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: China advanced 2 months to May 15, 2018; India advanced 5 months to February 1, 2011. All other countries are current.
USCIS will accept adjustment of status applications for all employment-based cases and F2A Spouses and Minor Children of Green Card Holders based on the “Final Action Dates” charts, and all other family-based cases based on the “Dates for Filing” charts.
The May 2021 Visa Bulletin can be found here.
2. DOS Expands National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID Travel Bans
Immigrant and Fiancé(e) Travelers, and Certain Exchange Visitors
On April 8, 2021, the State Department has expanded eligibility of national interest exceptions (NIEs) for regional COVID-19 travel bans in place for Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom to include immigrant and fiancé(e) travelers, and certain exchange visitors.
The following categories of foreign travelers are considered eligible for an NIE under any of the regional COVID travel bans:
Immigrants and Fiancé(e)s: Foreign nationals entering on an immigrant or fiancé(e) visa will qualify for national interest exceptions under the new policy.
Certain Exchange Visitors: Certain exchange program visitors may qualify for national interest exceptions under the new policy, including certain J-1 au pairs, interns, trainees, and specialized teachers, among others.
Pilots and Air Crew: Pilots and air crew who are traveling for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance on B-1, B-2, or M-1 visas, or under the Visa Waiver Program, will qualify for national interest exceptions under the new policy. The NIE also covers certain M-2 dependents where the principal’s necessary training is four weeks or more.
DOS’ alert can be found here.
Travelers Providing Vital Support for Critical Infrastructure, Journalists, Students, and Certain Academics Covered by Exchange Visitor Programs
On April 26, 2021, the State Department has expanded eligibility of national interest exceptions (NIEs) for regional COVID-19 travel bans in place for Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom to include travelers providing vital support for critical infrastructure, journalists, students, and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs.
Students and academics subject to these regional COVID-19 travel bans may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later.
Students with Valid F-1 and M-1 visas: Students intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.
Students Seeking to Apply for New F-1 or M-1 Visas: Students should check the status of visa services at their nearest embassy or consulate. Applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.
DOS’ alert can be found here.
The new policies became effective immediately. However, many consulates worldwide are still operating at reduced capacity and facing steep application backlogs, so appointment delays are to be expected.
3. Update on Presidential Proclamation 10052
Presidential Proclamation (P.P.) 10052, which temporarily suspended the entry of certain H-1B, L-1, H-2B and J-1 nonimmigrants (and their dependents) into the U.S. expired on March 31, 2021 midnight 12AM EST.
On April 1, 2021, DOS announced that visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications prioritized and processed in accordance with existing phased resumption of visa services guidance.
Visa applicants who were previously refused visas due to the restrictions of P.P. 10052 may reapply by submitting a new application including a new fee.
Regional COVID-19 public health bans applicable to certain foreign nationals present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa 14 days prior to entry into the U.S., remain in effect. Exceptions exist for certain family members of U.S. citizens and green card holders and for those whose travel is deemed in the national interest.
In addition, reduced operations and backlogs at U.S. consulates abroad may significantly delay scheduling of H, L and J visa appointments.
DOS’ alert can be found here.
4. F-1 Students Can Now File Form I-765 Online to Apply for OPT and STEM OPT
On April 12, 2021, USCIS announced that F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT) can now file Form I-765 online if they are filing under one of the below categories:
(c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
(c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
(c)(3)(C) – 24-Month STEM OPT Extension.
USCIS’ alert can be found here.
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS & UPDATES
Further Extension of Restrictions on US-Canada and US-Mexico Borders Until May 21, 2021
In order to limit the further spread of the coronavirus, on March 21, 2020, the U.S. reached agreements with both Canada and Mexico to limit all non-essential travel across borders. These joint initiatives were originally set to be in place for 30 days, subject to reevaluation and further extension in light of coronavirus pandemic developments. “Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.
On April 20, 2021, these measures were further extended until May 21, 2021, which marks the thirteenth extension since implementation. These restrictions do not apply to entry through U.S. airports.
DHS’ twitter update can be found here.