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Biden nixes Trump immigrant visa ban as clock runs down on H-1B suspension

Keeping family members out of the country deemed harmful

President Biden has issued a proclamation revoking a series of Trump administration proclamations that halted the issuance of green cards for immigrants. The rule change, however, left in place limitations on temporary work visas for skilled foreign workers.

Biden said the previous immigration restrictions – put in place in April, June, and December, 2020, because of the supposed impact immigration could have during the COVID-19 pandemic on the employment of US citizens – have hurt the country.

The suspension of entry into the US, he said, interfered with the ability of family members of US citizens and lawful permanent residents to join their families here. The rules prevented family members from entering the country unless they were a parent, a spouse, or an unmarried child of a US citizen.

"[The entry prohibition] also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world," the President said. "And it harms individuals who were selected to receive the opportunity to apply for, and those who have likewise received, immigrant visas through the Fiscal Year 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery."

Doug Rand, who worked in the Obama White House as assistant director for entrepreneurship and co-founded immigration assistance biz Boundless Immigration, told The Register in a phone interview that the revocations are very meaningful.

"The immigrant visa bill affected a lot of people," he said. "It basically shut down the Diversity Visa program and dramatically curtailed family immigration."

Boundless last year estimated that the Trump policy would prevent the issuance of about 358,000 green cards out of the 1.1m issued annually.

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"It was important for the Biden administration with a very clear voice to invalidate the Trump administration argument that the close relatives of US citizens are somehow adverse to US interests and to the economy when they are in fact just future Americans," he said.

Biden revoked the entirety of Proclamation 10014 (immigrant visa ban), section one of Proclamation 10052 (non-immigrant visa ban), and section one of Proclamation 10131 (modifying the other two proclamations).

Earlier in the week, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it would drop a naturalization civics test introduced during the Trump administration in favor of a previous version with fewer questions and a lower score requirement.

Biden's intervention hasn't yet restored Silicon Valley's ability to look abroad for technical experts. Section 2 of Proclamation 10052, the suspension of H-1B, J, and L visas – used to allow high skilled workers into the US – remains in effect for the time being.

But the non-immigrant visa ban is currently subject to litigation and, in any event, is set to expire at the end of March. USCIS has said it will start accepting H-1B applications for 2022 from March 9, 2021, 1200 ET, through March 25, 2021, 1200 ET. It plans to start notifying selected registrants no later than March 31.

The US currently offers around 65,000 H-1B visas per year with an extra 20,000 set aside for those who have earned US Master's Degrees. Of the 65,000, 6,800 slots are set aside per the terms of the US-Chile and US-Singapore free trade agreements. ®

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