What immigration changes has Biden made during his first 100 days?

President Biden took up office pledging swift and decisive action to reverse the changes and impact of the Trump era on US immigration.

He inherited policies which had effectively decimated the appeal of the US as a destination for ambitious and entrepreneurial migrants, while severely restricting access to immigration services, hitting employers, families, businesses and others who rely upon immigrants hard.

In response, the President called for reforms “to restore humanity and American values to our immigration system”, with an overhaul of both policy and operational changes to improve functioning of the immigration system.

His message was clear: this is a welcoming Administration which celebrates immigrants. His first 100 days have validated this commitment and with much work still to be done, we expect more positive changes ahead.

Roll-call of reforms

During his first 100 days, President Biden has implemented the following key immigration changes:

  • Ended travel restrictions on people from a number of Muslim-majority countries.
  • The Immigration Bill has been formally introduced before Congress, proposing comprehensive immigration reform to be passed by the House of Representatives and Senate.
  • Allowed the nonimmigrant travel ban to expire.
  • Repealed the Presidential Proclamation banning immigrants.
  • Issued an Executive Order rescinding BAHA, which led to the reversal or delay of some restrictive H-1B policies.
  • Removed the public charge regulations discouraging immigrants from using public benefits.
  • Appointed officials from diverse backgrounds to senior immigration posts.
  • Halted plans for significant immigration application fee increases.
  • Reinstated the USCIS deference policy to ensure consistency for individuals who have been living and working in the US.
  • Reinstated a fairer civics exam for naturalization applicants.
  • Rescinded the refugee ban.
  • Stopped funding and building the border wall.
  • Reversed the Trump-era order expanding criteria for deporting immigrants.
  • Reinstated the Obama-era principle of prioritizing deportations of immigrants posing a national security, border security or public health risk.

Looking ahead

While the Biden Administration has implemented many of the pledged reforms, the reality is that effective and sustainable change was always going to take more than 100 days.

Reversing and rescinding Trump-era policies offers little in the way of low-hanging fruit, given the sheer volume of measures that were introduced – the Trump Administration passed over 400 executive actions targeting all channels of immigration – and given many are now established in law as federal regulation.

Operational improvements will be critical, in terms of speed and efficiency of petition processing, transparency of adjudication and overall fairness and consistency for applicants across all classifications.

Policies under the previous administration had also slowed down processing, resulting in a 101% overall increase in case processing times from fiscal years 2014 to 2019, despite case numbers decreasing by 10 percent from 2017 to 2019, according to figures from AILA.

Adding to this, the challenges of the pandemic continue to be felt with consular and embassy services not yet fully resumed, with application backlogs mounting.

In response to public health concerns, Biden has also proceeded with regional travel bans which have added to local caseloads for consulates and embassies in countries affected by the restrictions.

Yet President Biden clearly recognizes the value and contribution migrants bring to the US, economically, socially and culturally. He is leading the drive to reestablish the USA’s proposition for migrants and we expect momentum to continue in rebuilding appeal among foreign national entrepreurs, investors and workers, and seeing through the President’s vision to restore humanity and American values to US immigration.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration is actively monitoring the impact of the changes in US immigration policy and application processing.

If you have any queries about new opportunities and how reforms can benefit your recruitment and global mobility activity, speak to our US immigration specialists.

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