As published in the Immigration Daily on July 21, 2020
In a startling turnabout on July 16, 2020, the Department of State (DOS) invited F-1 and M-1 students from the Schengen Area of Europe, the UK and Ireland to enter the US under their visas despite bans under Presidential Proclamations 9993 and 9996 specifically barring persons from these countries from entering the US if they were in them within 14 days of entry. . The Department stated that “Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel.” While good news to many, it hardly makes sense unless the proclamations themselves are lifted. A partial lifting sub rosa without reasoning further damages the image of the United States as a country of laws. The proclamations were put in place because of the numbers of infected citizens of those countries and the danger that they posed to the US in spreading the pandemic if they arrived. Is it perhaps that the danger of Covid-19 is no longer relevant as the US recently reached 70,000 infections in one day? Is it that the daily totals of some of the countries being exempted are no longer alarming taking into account the spread in this country? Last week’s statistics on some of the countries now being exempted show France at 2552 infections daily, Spain 1400, UK 687, Germany 529, Poland 339, and Italy 249.
It certainly appears to be political – otherwise, why is there not a similar privilege being given to China that last week recorded 17 infections daily? And why not impose a presidential proclamation against Russia with its daily infection rate of 6109? If Mr. Trump could impose against Brazil, why not Russia?
Your writer is unfortunately not a great fan of social media, but muddled his way around as the State Department is giving answers to questions in FAQs on Twitter concerning the 6/22/20 nonimmigrant H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and certain J visa bars on entry. In looking over the various answers, one would hope that the Department takes more care in giving answers as some of them were wrong or misleading.
On at least five occasions concerning the fate of overseas derivatives spouses and children whose principals were in the US and in the above visa categories, the standard response was “Per Section 3 of the Presidential Proclamation, suspension of entry applies to ‘Any alien who does not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date (June 24) of this proclamation.’ See the link for exceptions.” Also that “We will not be issuing H-1B, H-2B, L, or certain J visas, and their derivatives through December 31, 2020, unless an exception applies.” Yet in another July 16, 2020, official statement by the Department, it said that” The Department of State will continue to issue H, L, and J visas to otherwise qualified derivative applicants who are otherwise currently excepted or where the principal applicant is currently in the United States.” .
The official answer appears to finally recognize that the Section 3 exception of the proclamation (proclamation not applying to those in the US on its July 24, 2020, effective date) stretches to cover family members who are now eligible for visa issuance. It also seemingly answers the question that those principals who were in the US on the effective date of the proclamation should be able to leave the country and be visaed in those categories barring their inclusion in other bans – that they should not have to wait until after December 31, 2020, for visa issuance. On this, the Department should issue further guidance to the consular posts.
On the tangential point of five questions asked as to when DV-2020 winners could interview for visas, the stock response was “Presidential proclamation 10014 suspended the issuance of several categories of immigrant visas, including DVs. This proclamation was recently extended until December 31, 2020. While the proclamation is in place, the issuance of DVs is not permitted.” To that, there was an excellent response by the asker that “The proclamation only suspends entry. It does not mention suspending the interview and visa issuance process. For #DV 2020 winners this process needs to happen before September 30. We are suspended from entering till after the proclamation ends, but at least we still get our chance.”
Finally in answering a question from an individual applying for adjustment of status and having advance parole and asking whether they were allowed to travel to the US with their B1 B2 visas while their DV 2020 was under advance parole, the Department’s answer that “Foreign nationals with valid visas are generally authorized to travel to a US port of entry” was clearly wrong as applicants for adjustment of status can only travel outside the US under advance parole and reenter under advance parole – otherwise the adjustment of status application is deniable.
While one cannot be but pleased with the official responses of the Department of State, the Department is urged very strongly to give more attention to its unofficial Twitter responses that are taken very seriously by members of the public.
 Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Non-Immigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak, Department of State, July 16, 2020.