New Lawsuit Challenges Biden Administration Covid-19 Visa Policies - Immigration News for April 16, 2021
Peri B. Edelman | April 16, 2021
New Lawsuit Challenges the Biden Administration Covid-19 Visa Policies
A new lawsuit challenges the State Department’s refusal to issue visas in countries the Biden administration maintains coronavirus-related restrictions on entering the United States. Immigration attorneys argue that the current policy is not advancing public health since entering the United States must show a negative Covid-19 test result prior to flying to the United States. Further, individuals in certain visa categories and individuals with previously issued valid visas are permitted to enter America, while other individuals in other categories are refused visas.
F-1 Students Seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) Can Now File Form I-765 Online
On Monday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT) can now file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, online if they are filing under one of these categories:
- (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
- (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
- (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students.
OPT is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). Eligible F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT.
Biden Administration Faces Huge Visa Backlogs
As background, in March 2020, citing the Covid-19 pandemic, the State Department suspended routine visa services at embassies and consulates around the world. In April 2020, President Trump issued and twice extended a proclamation suspending the entry of most immigrants who didn't already have valid visas until March 31, 2021. The State Department interpreted the bar on entry as also stopping it from issuing most immigrant visas, according to lawsuits against the agency. Although, by July, former Secretary of State Pompeo began permitting consulates and embassies reopen for limited visa operations, most remained closed for all but emergency services, State Department legal filings show.
In legal filings, the State Department stated that because of illnesses and other issues, after Pompeo gave posts the option to reopen, in August 2020, more than two thirds of the 143 US consular posts didn't schedule a single immigrant visa interview. Even by January 2021, a third of consulates and embassies still were unable to schedule a single visa interview.
In February 2017, according to Rebecca Austin, assistant director of the National Visa Center at the State Department, there was a backlog of 2,312 family-preference visa applications. Over the next three years, that backlog more than doubled and doubled again, reaching 26,737 by Feb. 8, 2020. Then, by February 8 of this year (due to pandemic closures), the backlog has grown to nearly 285,000, she said in a declaration to a federal court in California.
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