Gunster’s Immigration Practice Group continues to monitor the immigration developments arising during COVID-19. Below is a summary of some of the latest developments.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) Issues Order Requiring Negative COVID-19 Test or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 for Persons Entering by Air
On January 21, 2021, the CDC issued an Order requiring a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 for all airline or other aircraft passengers arriving into the United States from any foreign country, effective January 26, 2021. This order supersedes the prior Order issued by CDC on January 12, 2021 and clarifies the exemption categories for federal law enforcement and U.S. Department of Defense personnel. The new Order also replaces the previous language concerning the ability of airlines and aircraft operators to request specific waivers and replaces it with a limited humanitarian exemption category.
Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease
On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed a Proclamation continuing the suspension of entry of certain travelers from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil, China, and Iran, and expanding restrictions to include travelers from South Africa.
The suspension and limitation on entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, and the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on January 26, 2021.
The suspension and limitation on entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the Republic of South Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on January 30, 2021.
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are not subject to the proclamations.
Some other exceptions include, but are not limited to: foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas and certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents including spouses, children under the age of 21, parents (provided that his/her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21). There is also an exception for air and sea crew traveling to the United States on C, D, or C1/D visas; and any noncitizen whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) Announces Extension to I-9 Compliance Flexibility
On January 27, 2021, ICE announced an extension of the flexibilities in rules related to Form I-9 compliance that was granted in 2020. Due to the continued precautions related to COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) will extend this policy until March 31, 2021.
Previously, on March 19, 2020, due to precautions implemented by employers and employees associated with COVID-19, DHS announced that it would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9). This policy only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Extends Flexibility for Responding to Certain Agency Requests
On January 28, 2021, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, USCIS announced that it is extending the flexibilities it announced on March 30, 2020, to assist applicants, petitioners, and requestors who are responding to certain:
- Requests for Evidence;
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Notices of Intent to Deny;
- Notices of Intent to Revoke;
- Notices of Intent to Rescind;
- Notices of Intent to Terminate regional centers; and
- Motions to Reopen an N-400.
In addition, USCIS will consider a Notice of Appeal or Motion or Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, if:
- The form was filed up to 60 calendar days from the issuance of a decision we made; and
- USCIS made that decision anytime from March 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021.
This flexibility applies to the above documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice, or decision is between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, inclusive.
USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action.
Companies and individuals with ongoing or prospective immigration processes and their employees, colleagues or family members who may be affected by these recent immigration developments should consult with counsel on individual situations. Gunster’s Immigration Practice Group remains available to answer your questions.
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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.
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