With over 30.4 million cases as of this publishing, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it for the foreseeable future. As the vaccine begins to roll out in the U.S., many Americans can't help but think about the possibilities for socialization, travel, and work. Immigrants, however, have a much more serious concern. Keep reading to find out more.
COVID-19 and Immigration
The widespread shutdowns during 2020 extinguished the American dream for many immigrants. In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, Former President Trump issued a freeze on most green card applications and closed the borders to Canada and Mexico.
Green card holders visiting outside of the U.S. during the shutdowns had difficulty returning to the country, jeopardizing their status and, in many cases, leading to the revocation of their green card. Additionally, applicants for lawful permanent residence were no longer able to apply for a green card and forced to wait for conditions to change.
Nonimmigrant visas for work, study, or other temporary reasons were also frozen by executive order. Many visa holders were at risk of violating their visa terms due to travel restrictions, and few immigrants received an extension from the Department of Homeland Security.
One of the most harmful repercussions involved asylum seekers. In March of 2020, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents received permission to remove asylum seekers regardless of their reason for seeking safety. CBP agents also sent asylum seekers back to their country without confirming whether they would be at risk for torture or imprisonment upon their return. Those seeking asylum for religious reasons or to escape persecution were also subject to forceful removal.
With the state of immigration in limbo, many immigrants have been feeling uncertain and often fearful about their future in the United States. However, now that COVID-19 cases are leveling out, there is hope that immigration can continue and that many immigrants can still pursue opportunities in the U.S.
The Freeze Is Over. . . Now What?
The Biden Administration continues to roll back Trump-era policies, including the green card freeze. Hopefully, the reversal will provide hundreds of thousands of immigrants with the opportunity to work and live in the United States.
President Biden says, "It harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members […] from joining their families here. It also harms industries […] that utilize talent from around the world."
Immigrants may be eligible for a green card under the following categories:
- Special Immigrant status
- Refugee or Asylee status
- Human trafficking and crime victims
- Victims of abuse
- Other categories
Immigrants who fall into these categories can apply for a green card either as an adjustment of status or through consular processing.
- Those who already have immigration status in the United States may apply for an adjustment of status through the USCIS. Typically, those with lawful permanent resident status are eligible for a green card through adjustment of status.
- Immigrants outside of the U.S. may apply for their green card at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their country through consular processing. Essentially, approval of a green card application through consular processing results in lawful permanent resident status.
The green card application process remains complicated, but the Biden Administration hopes to improve procedures and policies to create a fair immigration system. It is unclear how these reforms will continue to roll out, but allowing immigrants to pursue their American Dream once again is a step in the right direction.
For assistance with adjustment of status, green card applications, or other immigration issues, contact Lim Law, P.A. today.