Sanwar Ali: US visas, coronavirus and travel ban latest

By Sanwar Ali:

Like many other Countries there are significant delays in obtaining visas and there are fewer flights.  There have been a number of demonstrations in the US against the coronavirus “lockdown”. Some US States are now starting to relax restrictions as well.

US Visa Premium Processing suspended

Since 20 March 2020 premium processing has been suspended for all I-129 and I-140 visa applications.  This has caused considerable delays in the processing of US work visas.   I-129 applications are applications for non-immigrant visa applications including the L1 visa, H1B visa, O1 visa and E2 visa.  I-140 applications are for employment based green card applications such as EB1, EB2 and EB3 applications.  However, not all I-140 applications are eligible for premium processing anyway.  It is unknown when premium processing will  be resumed.   Without premium processing many types of visa applications could take a number of months.

The list of non-immigrant visas that have been affected by the suspension of premium processing are as follows:

I-129 non-immigrant visas: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2.

Routine US visa services Worldwide suspended

Since 20 March 2020 Embassies and consulates have cancelled all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments. There are some limited exceptions to this.  It may be possible to obtain emergency appointments for air and sea crew, and medical personnel, especially those working in the fight against COVID-19.   Also H-2B visa agricultural workers may be able to obtain visas as they are needed to help maintain food supplies in the US.  It is currently not known when this suspension will be lifted.

USCIS offices for in-person appointments closed until 4 June 2020

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs).  This is a measure to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).  USCIS is continuing to provide some services at these offices while they are closed.  Some emergency in-person appointments will still be available.

Please note that USCIS service centers are still accepting non-immigrant and immigrant petitions at this time.  These visa applications are anyway sent via courier or by post.

US Travel Ban and concession for medical professionals:

The US has banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled to China, Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK or Ireland 14 days before their arrival.  There are also restrictions on travel between the US and Canada and Mexico. 

We have also reported on the limited US visa processing suspension for 60 days for some people wishing entry on “Green Cards”.  There is also a concession for medical professionals who already have a US visa.  They may still be able to gain entry to the US or extend their stay in the US.

US protests about coronavirus lockdown

There have been concerns that coronavirus lockdown protesters are not following social distancing rules.   Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator had the following to say to Fox News about the protest in the state capitol of Michigan:

"It's devastatingly worrisome to me, personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition, and they have a serious or a very unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives. So, we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent."

There have been other protests against the coronavirus “lockdown”.   States around the US are easing the lockdown due to economic and political pressure.

Coronavirus in the US

As of 4 May, about 1.2 million coronavirus cases had been reported in the US – the highest in the world. The death toll is over 68,000  – again, the highest in the world.  178,263 people are reported to have recovered from the disease.  However, the actual death rate in the US is lower than many other Countries.

Latest coronavirus updates, visa and immigration restrictions

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, plus details of visa and immigration restrictions worldwide, check Workpermit.com’s news feed to stay informed.

Workpermit.com can help with US employment-based visas

If you would like to apply for a US work visa – including L1 visasE1 and E2 visasB1 in lieu of H1B visas and H1B visas - Workpermit.com can help. 

Workpermit.com is a specialist visa consultancy with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Contact us for further details.  You can also telephone 0344 991 9222.