USA: Biden Reverses US Work Visa Ban

USA: Biden Reverses US Work Visa Ban

US President Joe Biden has revoked the controversial US work visa ban imposed under the previous administration. President Joe Biden said that “it does not advance the interests of the United States.” Former President Trump ordered a ban on US employment-based visas shortly after the coronavirus outbreak, on the grounds that it would protect the American workforce.

Former President Trump had frozen “green cards” for new immigrants and halted temporary work visas for skilled workers in the H-1B, H-4, H-2B, L-1 and J categories, to protect US jobs. He argued that the dramatic clampdown on legal immigration was vital to safeguarding the U.S. labour market during the pandemic. One of the side effects of the ban was a shortage of international doctors who were unable to enter the country with the strict rules in place.

Last January 2021, Trump had extended the US work visa ban until March 31, after initially ordering a ban until the end of 2020. However, in a proclamation issued by Biden on February 24, he said: “Shutting the door on legal immigrants does not advance United States interests.”

The reversal by the new administration means that hundreds of thousands of foreigners, who had expected to wait until the end of March for the chance to apply for the coveted visas, can do so immediately.

Harming the Country

The US President Biden added that “to the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilise talent from around the world.”

The ban had far-reaching consequences, not only on immigrants but also on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which was on the brink of collapse after revenues from US visa applications dried up.

Meanwhile, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), an estimated 120,000 family-based preference visas were lost, attributed mainly to the pandemic-related freeze in the 2020 budget year. 

Immigrants were not allowed to bring family members with them unless they were US citizens applying for visas on behalf of their spouses or children under the age of 21. Employment-based visa applicants were also denied entry, unless their profession was considered to be beneficial to the national interest, such as health professionals.

Diversity Visa winners were also refused entry, denying them green cards that would allow them to live permanently in the country.

Visa Backlogs

The visa ban has contributed to a backlog of 437,000 applications for family-based visas alone.

Toward the end of 2020, a federal judge ruled that temporary foreign workers could enter the country if their employers are members of the US Chamber of Commerce or several other large organizations that represent much of the US economy. The ruling effectively lifted proclamation 10052.

However, the former President’s executive order continued to block thousands of immigrants from entering the US.

Diversity Visa Lottery Order

The lifting of the US visa ban comes just days after diversity visa lottery winners won a legal challenge to extend their visas amid fears that they would expire prior to the green card ban being lifted. As a result of Biden lifting the work visa ban, they will now be able to enter the US on their visa.

In addition to lifting the ban, Biden has proposed legislation that would limit presidential authority to issue future bans against immigrants.

However, the President has not disclosed any details on whether there will be any reparation for US visa lottery winners who were disadvantaged by the Trump-era pandemic policies. 

Aside from revoking the order, President Biden has called for the US to increase the number of diversity visas made available by the lottery from 55,000 to 85,000.

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