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COVID 19 US Visa Update January 2021

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

COVID-19 Update January 2021

In-person visa interviews temporarily waived for certain categories

With the US travel ban now extended through March 31, 2021, in-person visa interviews are also being waived for specific visa categories over the same period.

The relaxed provision applies only to individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same category and whose visas expire in the next 24 months.

The measure is designed to reduce contact and transmission risks during the pandemic.

Visa applicants are recommended to take advice on the status of their application and if they qualify for the interview waiver for their local US Embassies and Consulates.

CAN MEX border closure extension

The US-Mexico and US-Canada land border closures are to remain effective until January 21, 2020, due to ongoing pandemic concerns.

This is a 30-day extension of the existing closure, which has been in place since March 2020 and has now been subject to nine successive monthly extensions.

The following rules continue to apply for the period of the closure:

  • Non-essential travel is not permitted across the land borders.
  • Travel for reasons of work, education, medical treatment, public health and legal cross-border trade are permissible.
  • Travel by US citizens and US permanent residents returning to the US is also allowed.

Other exemptions may also apply, and may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Visa Waiver and other business travellers can expect additional scrutiny at the border, as CBP officers exercise wide discretion to inspect entrants.

The closure will be reviewed again in advance of January 21, 2021.

ICE extends interim COVID-19 protections for Form I-9 compliance

Relaxed compliance requirements relating to Form I-9 will continue to be permitted until January 31, 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed the extension of the temporary measure on December 23, 2020.

Under the temporary employment eligibility verification compliance requirements, employers operating remotely are permitted to review identity and employment authorization documents remotely, such as by video, fax, or email. Physical inspections can be deferred until after normal operations are resumed.

Timings for completion of the I-9 have not been changed: section 1 must be completed by the employee’s start date, and section 2 must be completed within three business days of the start date.

The temporary policy will not apply where employees are physically reporting to a place of work, instead, standard, in-person I-9 compliance requirements continue to apply when checking identity and employment eligibility documentation.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration is actively monitoring the impact of the pandemic on US immigration policy and application processing.

As the situation continues to develop, please contact our US immigration specialists for the latest advice for your specific circumstances.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Last updated: December 31, 2020


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.