Several education organisations, including the American Council on Education, have written to the US Departments of State and Homeland Security urging them to expedite visa processing for international students before starting the fall semester in 2021.
The groups requested that the Biden administration relax previous guidance prohibiting international students from travelling and studying in the United States if their programmes were entirely online. The administration issue a written policy exempting new students from current travel restrictions.
The groups argued that these actions would help jump-start the U.S. economy because colleges and universities rely financially on international students, who frequently pay full tuition to study in the United States. Higher education saw a more than 70% decrease in new international student enrollment in 2020, including a more than 90% decrease in F-1 student visas for August.
While current international students are allowed to stay in the United States even if their programmes are entirely online, an existing ICE directive prevents new international students from obtaining visas if their programmes are entirely online.
This is a problem for students who enrol in schools that have moved to small classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many students cannot complete their coursework from abroad due to a lack of internet access or significant time differences during live classes.
Only students from the Schengen Area of Europe, the United Kingdom, and Ireland are currently exempt from pandemic-related travel restrictions; advocates want this exemption to be extended globally.
While the Department of Homeland Security has not commented on the matter, a spokesperson for the Department of State stated that US Embassies and Consulates are “working to resume routine visa services on a location by location basis,” embassies processing nonimmigrant visa applications prioritising student visas. Applicants for student visas should visit the website of theirs. Student visa applicants should check the website of their closest embassy or consulate for current operational status.
Land border restrictions between Canada and Mexico have been extended until April 21, 2021
The United States Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) has determined that the ban on non-essential travel across US land borders, as well as ferry travel with Canada and Mexico, will remain in effect until April 21, 2021. The ban was set to end on March 21, 2021.
The directive, which was initially implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has limited movement across the U.S.-Canadian border to essential travel – including lawful cross-border trade, travel for work in the United States, travel for medical or educational purposes, and travel for emergency response and public health purposes – as well as travel for U.S. citizens. Legal – as well as travel for U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and members of the U.S. Armed Forces returning to the United States, and any other forms of voyage determined by the CBP on a case-by-case basis.
Any business travel will be subject to additional border scrutiny. Because CBP has broad discretion in inspecting travellers, foreign nationals should expect other questions about employment or business activities in the United States. CBP will review this directive next month to determine whether another extension is necessary.
Department of Labor Proposal Extending Regulation Delay and Raising PERM and H-1B Wages
The US Department of Labor has indicated that it will postpone implementing a regulation that would have increased wage requirements for foreign employees working in speciality occupations in the US. The new rules were set to go into effect on May 14, 2021. The Department of Labor is attempting to push back the start date by 18 months and extend the transition period to three years.
The Trump administration’s new wage rule sought to restructure the current prevailing wage system and raise wage minimums for several visa programmes. The Department of Labor announced that the effective date would be delayed until May 14, 2021, to allow the Biden administration time to review the regulation.
The Trump administration’s new wage rule aimed to restructure the current wage system and raise wage minimums for several visa programmes. The Department of Labor announced that the effective date would be pushed back until May 14, 2021, to give the Biden administration time to review the rule.