October 2021 was a very active month for US Immigration. GLF provided updates via Google, LinkedIn and Twitter, on numerous US Immigration matters including:

  1. Biden removes travel ban from November 8, 2021
  2. State department’s Visa Bulletin summary- November 2021
  3. US eases entry for fully vaccinated visitors
  4. USCIS issued new Form I-693 (Covid-19 vaccine requirement) but prior version accepted if signed before October 1
  5. Covid-19 Vaccination now a must with Immigration Medical Exams

We at GLF post regular updates on our Google, LinkedIn and Twitter handles. Additionally, we also periodically send out GLF Newsletters when the subject matter is extensive and relevant for a detailed analysis. Presented below is a consolidated summary of updates posted on GLF’s Google, LinkedIn and Twitter handles for October 2021.

President Biden through a Presidential Proclamation titled “Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic” confirmed his Administration’s intention to remove all existing travel bans by adopting an air travel policy which involves mandatory vaccination requirements with limited exceptions.

The Proclamation intends to govern the entry of Non-Immigrants to United States while suspending the entry of unvaccinated Non-Immigrants, with certain limited exceptions. Entry of unvaccinated Non-Immigrants will be allowed consistent with applicable health and safety guidelines issued by the CDC, such as:

  • Proof of predeparture testing for COVID-19 within three days of boarding a flight to the United States.
  • Must agree to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States.
  • Must take precaution of wearing face masks during air travel to protect against further transmission.
  • Proof of arrangement to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 upon their arrival.
  • Proof of arrangement to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.

However, exceptions shall be applicable to those who are too young to receive vaccine or those who have a medical contraindication. Vaccinated travelers are expected to carry proof of vaccination along with proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the United States.

The highlights of the State Department November 2021 Visa Bulletin are as follows:

  • USCIS will accept I-485 applications for family or employment-based petitions based on Filing dates – except F2A and EB-5.
  • No changes in the Final action dates and dates for filing for family-sponsored preference categories for India.
  • Dates for Filing for employment-based preference categories (India) are
  1. EB2- January 8, 2013,
  2. EB3- January 22, 2012
  3. Other Workers- January 22, 2012.
  • For EB-2 Category India’s Final Action dates have advanced by 3 months to December 1, 2011 and Filing dates have advanced by 6 months to January 8, 2013.
  • For EB-3 category India’s Final Action dates retrogressed almost 2 years to January 15, 2012 and Filing dates have retrogressed to January 22, 2012.
  • The final action and filing dates for employment-based preference categories in India for “Certain Religious Workers” category is current.
  • The DV-2022 annual limit was reduced to 54,850.
  • Employment Fifth Preference I5 and R5 Regional Center Visa Categories (I5 and R5): Division O, Title 1, Section 104 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 extended the Immigrant Investor pilot program until June 30, 2021. No I5 or R5 Visas may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases after June 30, 2021. The final action dates for the I5 and R5 categories currently listed as “Unavailable” for November.

In a welcome step, US has moved away from country specific travel bans and now allows all visitors to the US so long as they are vaccinated. The new policy is being implemented in phases.

Beginning November 8, 2021, CBP allows fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada at land and ferry ports of entry for non-essential reasons. 

Earlier, DHS had eased travel restrictions to United States from November 2021 and removed travel bans for: China, Iran, the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India with proof of vaccination along with negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the United States.

From January 2022, US will allow all inbound foreign travelers whether the travel is essential or not so long as the traveler is fully vaccinated and provides proof of vaccination.

USCIS had announced that from October 1, 2021, COVID-19 Vaccination shall be required with all medical examinations.

To accommodate this new requirement, USCIS updated Form I-693 on October 1, 2021. Following the release of new Form version, USCIS started accepting only the 09/13/2021 version of Form I-693. This caused concerns among Applicants who had completed the medical prior to October 1 (on old form) but were yet to submit the same to USCIS. In response, USCIS clarified with an updated guidance, that it will accept prior versions of forms if it was signed by the Civil Surgeon prior to October 1, 2021.

USCIS’s announcement of extending the validity period for Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, from two years now to four years, due to COVID-19-related delays in processing, will no longer be in effect.

From October 01, 2021, all Immigrant and K fiancé(e) Visa Applicants and those Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants who are referred to Panel Physicians are required to receive a full COVID-19 vaccine series as part of their medical exam prior to their Visa issuance. The vaccines must either be approved by WHO or FDA.

Exceptions are available to those:

  1. Who belong to a country where the vaccine is not routinely available; or
  2. For whom it is not age appropriate to receive the vaccination.

GLF recommends that Visa Applicants who are required to get medicals completed, must also proactively get vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid any delays in their Visa processing.

At GLF, we will continue to follow further developments in the above discussed and other matters, while we provide updates through our Newsletter as and when they become available. GLF receives numerous emails and phone calls every day seeking comments on various proposed bills and media reports that are often inaccurate. It is our job to separate fact from fiction and advice clients on important and relevant updates. The best way to receive accurate information is through GLF Newsletters.

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