In another move by the Biden Administration to reform U.S. immigration policies, On February 24, 2021, Biden reversed a Trump-era immigration ban that blocked the issuance of many green cards and nonimmigrant visas in response to the global pandemic.
What was the Trump Immigration Ban?
Former President Trump issued the executive order “Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak” on April 22, 2020, and then extended it on December 31, 2020, until the end of March of this year.
Biden was quoted as saying that Trump’s executive order, “does not advance the interests of the United States. 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 utilize talent from around the world.”
According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), upwards of 120,000 family-based preference visas were blocked due to the coronavirus-related immigration freeze in 2020. Individuals could not bring family members to the U.S. from overseas unless they themselves were citizens and they were applying for visas for either their spouse or children under 21. What’s more, the U.S. barred thousands of employment-based visas unless they were considered “beneficial to the national interest” as with the case with first-responders like healthcare workers.
A Growing Visa Backlog
All this adds to the immigration visa backlog, which is already at 473,000 for just family-based cases. Experts think it will take years to tackle if the new administration does not do something. It’s uncertain what next steps Biden will take, but he has made it clear he wishes to increase the number of Diversity Visas (DV) available in the U.S. each year from 55,000 to 80,000.
A random lottery process grants these special visas to individuals from countries that are typically underrepresented in U.S. immigration. Thousands of the DV lottery winners in 2020 were not able to take advantage of their opportunity to come to the U.S. There is more proposed legislation on the table from the Biden Administration aiming to limit any future presidential administration from issuing bans on immigrants. We’ll keep you updated with any new policies as they’re announced. For now, it is uncertain whether Biden will offer any remedy for the thousands of DV lottery winners who missed their chance due to the 2020 policies.