GREEN CARD APPLICANTS AND COVID VACCINATIONS
On October 1, 2021, green card applicants will be required to establish that they have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series in order to be deemed eligible for permanent residence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has added COVID-19 to the
list of vaccinations already required of those seeking U.S. lawful permanent residence.
The new vaccine requirement will be included in the routine medical examinations that are necessary for those seeking green cards in the United States by way of adjustment of status, as well as
immigrant visa applicants applying at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
If a foreign national for a green card is not yet fully vaccinated at the time of their medical examination, and the U.S. civil surgeon or panel physician performing the medical examination has the COVID-19 vaccine available to administer, that physician is permitted to vaccinate the applicant. However, because the applicant
must receive the full COVID-19 vaccine series before the medical exam can be completed, case processing may be delayed if the applicant attends an exam unvaccinated; this is because of the wait-time between administering the first and second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, and others. One alternative here is the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which consists of only one dose and could be considered complete if administered during an individual’s medical examination.
The new CDC policy includes various guidance regarding waivers and testing for both adjustment of status, and immigrant visa applicants, such as age limits, and waivers based on religious convictions and other moral grounds.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as appropriate.
CANADA-USA LAND BAN
Though originally set to expire on August 21, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has decided that it will continue the restriction on “non-essential” travel across U.S. land borders with and ferry travel between
Canada and Mexico through September 21, 2021. This does not, however, affect travel by air between the U.S. and Canada and/or Mexico.
In the opposite direction, the Canadian government
recently lifted non-essential travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and permanent residents entering Canada from the U.S. If the U.S. citizen or permanent resident attempting to travel to Canada is fully vaccinated, then she/he may enter Canada and will not have to quarantine.
Likewise, beginning September 7, fully vaccinated travelers from all other countries will be able to enter Canada without having first quarantined, as long as the Canadian government deems the maintenance of COVID-19 to be favorable.
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. has not announced a similar relaxation of its border policies, and does not appear set to do so any time soon. As such, U.S. restrictions will continue to be reviewed based on the status of the maintenance of COVID-19 on an ongoing basis.
VISA BULLETIN FOR SEPTEMBER
According to the State Department’s
September Visa Bulletin, there will be solid movement across most employment-based categories for the final month of FY 2021. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will honor final action dates for employment-based categories next month. USCIS has also announced that as of August 13, 2021, it has received enough petitions for returning workers under the remaining H-2B visas made available by a supplemental H-2B regulation for FY 2021. The agency will reject and return any cap-subject petitions for H-2B returning workers received after August 13, along with any accompanying fees.
USCIS AND SOCIAL SECURITY TEAM UP
Applicants filing for lawful permanent resident status (i.e., a green card), via adjustment of status with Form I-485 are now able to concurrently apply for a Social Security number (SSN) or replacement Social Security card as part of the adjustment of status (AOS) application process, according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
announcement issued today. Previously, foreign nationals had to provide additional paperwork in person at a local Social Security Office to obtain a new SSN or a replacement card after their green card was approved. Now, they can use the revised Form I-485, dated 03/29/21, which will become mandatory starting October 13, 2021, to make this request and have the new or replacement card sent directly to them after the adjudication of their case.
F-VISA STUDENTS CLASS ACTION SETTLED WITH USCIS
USCIS recently settled a class action lawsuit regarding lengthy delays in processing of Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications for individuals in F-1 student status. The settlement is welcome news to F-1 students who have been delayed in their ability to begin work following graduation due to long delays at USCIS.
On July 23, 2021, the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division issued a consent order, which outlines the terms of agreement between the parties. Key USCIS concessions agreed to in the settlement include:
For applications seeking an initial OPT and/or STEM extensions that were filed between October 1, 2020, through October 31, 2021, USCIS has committed to approving, denying, or issuing a request for evidence (an RFE) within 120 days of filing.
The interim relief announced on February 26, 2021, continues for all cases filed between October 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021. This includes:
A full 12 months of OPT irrespective of the requirement OPT be completed within 14 months of graduation.
OPT will be granted for the full period recommended by the DSO, irrespective of the time of adjudication.
If an EAD has been issued for less than these time periods, USCIS will issue a corrected EAD upon request.
Rejected applications which were originally submitted on time can be resubmitted and will be processed as if received on the original date (the full period of OPT will be granted, but the original I-20 will be accepted without the requirement of a new I-20).
RFEs will be issued instead of a denial for missing or deficient signatures.
OPT applications can be submitted up to 120 days (instead of 90) before completion of the program until October 31, 2021.
This settlement offers much needed relief to similarly situated students.
U.S. REMOVED FROM THE EU’s “SAFE LIST”
On Monday, August 30, 2021, the European Union removed the United States from its list of safe countries from which travelers could enter.
The guidance, which also now applies to Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia, is non-binding for EU member states, meaning that each EU country determines whether it will allow “nonessential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travelers.”
What this means: Individuals who (1) are fully vaccinated with an EU-approved vaccine (e.g., the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines), and (2) are traveling from the U.S. to the EU, will still be allowed to enter, though should be prepared to demonstrate proof of their vaccination status. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated and traveling from the U.S. to the EU are not likely to be authorized to enter the EU country, absent a showing of essential need, though again, this is up to each EU country to decide.
We will be monitoring the policy’s impact and provide updates as appropriate.
Please reach out to your Greenspoon Marder LLP Immigration & Naturalization Practice Group attorney for any questions or concerns. Click here to stay updated on our weekly alerts.