The nonimmigrant worker visa restrictions imposed by the U.S. since June 2020 have been allowed to expire. First implemented by Presidential Proclamation (PP) 10052, the restrictions were allegedly necessary to preserve the U.S. labor market during a time of high unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonimmigrant visa ban suspended and limited the entry of individuals pursuant to H-1B, H-2B, L, or J worker visas, unless such visas had already been issued and were still valid. As a result, U.S. embassies and consulates stopped issuing these visas unless an applicant was eligible for one of a few narrow exemptions. The ban was extended by PP 10131 on December 31, 2020.
The restrictions imposed by PP 10052 and PP 10131 expired on March 31, 2021. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that visa applications previously on hold due to PP 10052 would be processed in accordance with the Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services guidance published by DOS. The COVID-19 pandemic—which suspended all routine consular services from March through July 2020—has affected the capacity of all consular posts, but to varying degrees. DOS has developed guidance for safely returning its workforce to consular facilities and must also comply with local and regional restrictions in the countries and territories where the consular posts are located.
All embassies and consulates are processing emergency services. After meeting demand for services to U.S. citizens abroad, the next priority is immigrant visa applications. DOS acknowledged that approximately 500,000 immigrant visa cases accumulated during the last year, and these cases are being prioritized over routine nonimmigrant visas. The capacity of each consular post to process nonimmigrant visas will vary significantly. Even locations that are processing nonimmigrant visas will continue to prioritize travelers with urgent travel needs, foreign diplomats, and those supporting critical infrastructure or pandemic response.
DOS has not provided any estimate for when it anticipates a complete resumption of routine visa services. Furthermore, several geographic COVID-19 travel restrictions (implemented by PP 9984, 9992, and 10143) remain in effect for China, Iran, South Africa, Brazil, UK, Ireland, and the Schengen Area (European Union). Although these restrictions are temporal in nature—only prohibiting individuals who were present in one of the subject countries within the 14 calendar days preceding their entry to the U.S.—DOS has interpreted these as visa bans as well and is not issuing visas at consular posts within those countries unless an exemption is available.
The geographic restrictions of PP 9984, 9992, and 10143 do not have an expiration date and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.