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Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Immigration

Posted by Kripa Upadhyay | Jun 23, 2021

Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Immigration

In the second half of 2020, the United States saw more than a 90% drop in immigration. One of the main reasons for the rapid decline is the global pandemic, but even as vaccines are made available across the nation, the recent changes to America still impact immigrants. 

While the U.S. made COVID-19 a public health emergency on January 31, 2020, most foreign travel bans weren't put in place until March 2020. During the months where restrictions were placed on travel and immigration visas due to COVID-19, many individuals could not enter the country or begin the process of immigrating. 

Immigrants experienced a disproportionate amount of hardship during the pandemic, and many are still working to overcome the challenges from the last year. The process of immigration can be difficult and time-consuming, especially when your case is extended due to circumstances outside of your control.

How the Pandemic Changed the Immigration Process

On April 24, 2020, former president Donald Trump issued a ban blocking the distribution of new permanent visas to many immigrants. This restriction blocked immigrating family members—including parents and children—of U.S. citizens and certain employment-based nonimmigrant visas.

As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, President Joe Biden lifted the immigrant visa ban on February 24, 2021, allowing those restricted from entering the country back in to reunite with their loved ones. Some of those able to resume immigration include:

  • Family members of U.S. citizens
  • Green Card holders
  • Exchange visitors
  • Those with temporary worker visas
  • Those immigrating through their employers
  • Those in the diversity visa lottery program 

While the bans have either been lifted or expired, the changes made by the federal government are allowing individuals to access immigration procedures and work with legal representatives who can help them achieve citizenship in the country. In the following months, we are likely to see more widespread access to immigration appointments.

Can Immigrants Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Many who immigrate to the U.S. have concerns about accessing healthcare. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, there are questions regarding vaccine distribution and eligibility. The CDC states that, regardless of immigration or health insurance status, the vaccine is available for free to all those living in the U.S.

No documents are required to receive the vaccine, such as a Green Card or a driver's license, and the Data Use and Sharing Agreement (DUA) ensures that patient information is only used for COVID-19 public health response. Healthcare providers do not have the access or ability to release immigration information because of a vaccination. 

What Are the Current COVID-19 Restrictions?

The rise in vaccinations has made mandates for face masks and social distancing significantly more lenient than in 2020. While some states still enforce regulations against the spread of COVID-19, others have fewer restrictions. When moving into the United States, people should read about what types of regulations may affect them, such as:

  • Where is it required to wear a mask?
  • How much of the state's population is vaccinated?
  • Are children required to wear masks at school?
  • Am I required to quarantine when I travel?

Researching these questions may assist with preparations for immigrating into the United States. Certain states are fully open and have no restrictions, but others have structured rules that everyone living in the state should follow to maintain safety standards and CDC guidelines. 

Contact Experienced Seattle Immigration Attorneys at Orbit Law

The last year has limited the ability of many immigrants to see loved ones or begin the immigration process. The threat of COVID-19 is still prevalent and continues to change our current society, travel, and immigration laws. For those looking for assistance navigating these changes and receiving assistance from legal professionals, contact an experienced immigration attorney in Seattle. 

At Orbit Law, our accomplished team of attorneys is trained in international immigration laws and protocols. We work to provide clients with the necessary tools for each case. We offer our services in many languages—including English, Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, Spanish, and Urdu—to supply clients with comfortable communication. 

For more information about our services and to talk with one of our experienced attorneys, call (206) 623-3352 or fill out our online contact form

About the Author

Kripa Upadhyay

Kripa Upadhyay Founder/Attorney [email protected] EDUCATION Seattle University School of Law, Seattle, WA, Juris Doctor (JD)  May 2007 ADMISSIONS Washington State Bar Association: Admitted May 2008 U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Washington: Admitted 2009 U.S...