President Biden’s First Day in Office Good for Immigration

On January 20th, 2021 – day one as the 46th President of the United States – President Biden finalized no less than 17 executive orders, presidential memoranda and agency directives. Of these changes, five focused specifically on immigration.

Rescinding two US entry bans

President Biden immediately lifted two nationality-based travel bans issued by the Trump Administration.

A Presidential Proclamation was passed rescinding the 2017 travel ban and requiring visa processing to be resumed for nationals of the seven affected Muslim-majority countries that had been subject to the restrictions. The changes are as follows:

Iran

The ban on immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications has been lifted. This includes the diversity lottery.

Libya

The restrictions affecting visitor visas and immigrant visas (including diversity lottery) have been removed.

North Korea

All restrictions have been lifted on immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications.

Somalia

All restrictions have been lifted on immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications.

Syria

All restrictions have been lifted on immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications.

Venezuela

The restrictions affecting visitor visas for officials of certain Venezuelan government agencies have been removed. The restrictions relating to the Maduro government are still in effect.

Yemen

The restrictions affecting visitor visas and immigrant visas (including diversity lottery) have been removed.

January 2020 restrictions lifted

For nationals of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma), and Nigeria, the restrictions form January 2020 have been lifted on all immigrant visas. Restrictions lifted on diversity lottery immigrant visas have been removed for nationals of Sudan and Tanzania.

Implications of the Proclamation

The State Department has also been directed to develop a plan to address people who had applications denied under the ban, including reconsideration of those denied immigrant visa applicants and denied entry to the US. The plan must also ensure visa applicants are not prejudiced by prior denials under the bans if they re-apply for a visa.

Following the Proclamation, all US embassies and consulates are to resume processing applications previously affected by the bans, albeit in line with current COVID-related, nationality, or classification restrictions.

Further immigration Proclamations

In addition to rescinding the two bans, Biden also passed immigration Proclamations on his first day in office in relation to:

  • US / Mexico Border wall: Biden terminated the national emergency declaration, and in passing a Presidential Proclamation has stopped construction of the border wall.
  • DACA: enhanced protections have been passed for ‘Dreamers’ under a new presidential memorandum.
  • Immigration enforcement: An executive order was passed to reverse the expansion of US immigration law enforcement.
  • Deferrals of deportation: This presidential memorandum extends the deferred departure protections for Liberian nationals with a safe haven in the U.S. until June 30, 2022.

Path to citizenship

The changes come ahead of wider immigration reform in the form of a new Immigration Bill. This includes the broad plan to create a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, among other reforms.

The US Citizenship Act of 2021 would see an eight-year pathway to citizenship for non-citizen residents. By passing criminal background checks and paying taxes, they would become eligible after five years to apply for a Green Card, or, setting them on the path to US naturalization. After three years with legal permanent residency, and passing additional security checks and learning English and American civics, qualified immigrants could apply to become citizens.

The draft legislation also proposes a fast-tracked citizenship route for certain individuals, including ‘Dreamers’, farm workers and recipients of Temporary Protective Status.

Further immigration executive orders signed

On February 2nd, 2021, Biden signed a further three executive orders on immigration:

  • “Top to bottom review” of immigration policies: Instructing an official review of the public charge rule and directing agencies to conduct complete and thorough reviews of recent regulations, policies, and guidance that have created barriers to legal immigration in the United States.
  • Ending child separation policy: Creating a task force to reunite families that were separated at the border during the previous administration, specifically revoking former President Trump’s executive order that established the child separation policy.
  • Safe & lawful migration: Implementing a plan for safe and lawful migration, with calls for the study and investigation of the underlying issues that currently drive migrants from their homes, particularly migrants from Central America, and for proposing solutions to mitigate some of those issues.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration are a team of London-based US immigration attorneys. We are advising employers, entrepreneurs, investors, workers and other non-US nationals planning to travel or relocate to the US on the changes in US immigration policy and immigration rules under the new Administration. 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: February 3, 2021.