On June 22, 2020, the White House issued a Presidential Proclamation that extended a ban against immigrant visa issuance until at least December 31, 2020. It further banned the issuance of nonimmigrant worker visas in the H-1B, H-2B, L-1A, L-1B, and certain J-1 categories until December 31, 2020.

Clarification on Visa Renewals

What was not clear was how this would impact those individuals who were already in the United States in any of one of the banned statuses and whose visa stamp was valid until at least June 24, 2020 but would expire before December 31, 2020.

Right after the Presidential Proclamation was issued, the State Department, which is the federal agency that is responsible for issuing visas indicated in an FAQ that a renewal of a visa would not be possible for such individuals. As recently as today, the State Department clarified its interpretation of the Presidential Proclamation. Yes, visa renewal is possible. Again, for an individual who was (a) in the United States at least up to June 24, 2020, (b) whose visa was valid as of June 24, 2020, and (c) whose visa expires before December 31, 2020, this individual is not subject to the visa ban and can apply for a new visa at US Consulate abroad. Please note that this is subject to whether the US Consulate is open and whether appointments are available.

National Interest Exception for H-4, L-2, and J-2

The State Department also announced that the dependents of H-1B, L-1A, L-1B, and J-1 nonimmigrant visa holders who are not covered by the Presidential Proclamation may seek the appropriate dependent visa (e.g., H-4, L-2, and J-2) before December 31, 2020. (A literal reading of the Presidential Proclamation would have meant that such dependents could not obtain the appropriate visa to enter the US.) Again, this is subject to whether the US Consulate is open and whether appointments are available.

Please also note that other travel restrictions could still apply.

As you can see, the immigration environment is full of changes and uncertainties. Before making any travel plans, please ensure you have the latest information. The above was provided for educational purposes only. Please contact your Clark Lau LLC attorney to see whether the above applies to your situation. As always, stay tuned!