The Department of State Releases Changes to Vaccine Requirements for Immigrant, Nonimmigrant, and K Fiancé(e) Visa Applicants

Effective October 1, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) instructions for panel physicians requires all immigrant visa, K visa applicants, and nonimmigrant visa applicants who are referred to the panel physicians to receive a full COVID-19 vaccination series (approved through either the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) as part of their medical exam, prior to being issued a visa. Blanket waivers may be applied in countries where the vaccine is not routinely available or where the vaccine is not age appropriate. The Department of State recommends all visa applicants affected by this change to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to prevent visa processing delays. With entry requirements constantly changing, it is important to contact immigration counsel to confirm the current entry requirements into the U.S. for any employees planning on traveling.

Fully-Vaccinated Travelers from Canada and Mexico Will Be Allowed to Enter at Land Borders and Ferry Crossings in November 2021

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has announced that following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and other health experts, the DHS will amend regulations to allow non-essential travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have proper documentation, to enter the United States via land and ferry ports of entry (“POEs”) across the U.S. border. This will be implemented over the next few months in two phases: (1) in November 2021, non-essential travelers with appropriate documentation showing proof of vaccination from Canada and Mexico may enter the U.S. at land and ferry POEs for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism; and (2) in January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers (for essential or non-essential travel) be fully vaccinated when crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs. The new travel requirements will end COVID-related U.S. travel restrictions the government has implemented over the last 18 months.

“A ‘travel ban’ does not amount to a ‘visa ban'” – Federal Judge Rules that the United States Cannot Stop Issuing Visas During Travel Bans

A federal judge has declared that it is unlawful for the State Department to use travel bans implemented to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a reason to stop processing visas to travelers who are otherwise eligible. The court found that the State Department’s categorical refusal to issue visas to individuals from countries subject to regional travel restrictions without a National Interest Exception was unlawful. This is the first court order declaring that the government is prevented from suspending visa issuance during a travel ban. Discuss visa application procedures with immigration counsel before any employee travels abroad.