President Biden promised substantial immigration reform as a part of his campaign. After his first 100 days in office, we take a look at the changes that have been made so far. Review the updates below – some of which you have likely already read about, some of which may be news to you!
- Targeting H-1B Visas – Unsuccessful. The Trump administration implemented various policy changes explicitly targeting the H-1B category for high-skilled temporary workers. The infamous Executive Order “Buy American and Hire American” in April 2017 caused headaches for employees and employers alike. Following this order, federal agencies issued rules and policies intended to restrict H-1B approvals. USCIS issued more requests for evidence and denied more initial petitions. As such, denial rates increased drastically from 2017 through the first half of 2020, before falling in the second half of 2020. Despite the prior administration’s efforts, the overall number of approved H-1B petitions increased between the start and end of the Trump presidency.
- “Extreme Vetting” Policy – Revoked. Trump mandated “extreme vetting” of all noncitizen applicants and beneficiaries via executive order in March 2017. The order went into effect despite the existence of extensive vetting mechanisms and a low vetting failure rate. This was an effort to slow legal immigration and reduce the number of immigrants and non-immigrants that can obtain or maintain immigration status. Biden revoked the extreme vetting requirement with an executive order in February 2021.
- “No Blank Space” Policy – Finished. Immigration Services previously announced a policy of rejecting applications and petitions with questions left blank or not properly indicated as inapplicable. This lead to unnecessary rejections and denials of applications. The Biden administration formally revoked the policy on April 1, 2021.
- Changes to USCIS Filing Fees –Never went into effect. USCIS published a rule in August 2020 to increase filing fees for certain applications. The rule would have resulted in a dramatic increase to fees for applications such as citizenship and employment authorization applications. A lawsuit temporarily suspended this rule. Then, in January 29, 2021, USCIS issued a notification formally confirming that DHS would not implement the changes.
- The Immigrant and Temporary Worker Bans – Repealed. Under the guise of responding to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Trump issued a series of proclamations barring the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants to the United States. The bans—as well as suspension of visa services at consulates around the world—contributed to a large drop-off in visas issued. Biden repealed the immigrant visa ban on February 24, 2021. He also allowed the non-immigrant visa ban to expire on March 31, 2021. Resumption of visa processing, however, remains inconsistent and intermittent, limiting the impact of the revocation of the COVID-19 bans.
- Public Charge –Back to normal. The prior administration’s new “public charge” rule expanded the grounds to deny visa applicants for their use of public benefits. As a result, denials of immigrant visa petitions on public charge grounds increased by 300 percent. Immigrant families stopped using important public benefits. Under the Biden administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security dismantled the rule.
- Muslim, African, and Refugee Travel Ban – Repealed. The “Muslim Ban 3.0” went into effect on December 4, 2017. It barred entry of foreign nationals from 13 predominately Muslim and/or African countries. Biden insisted throughout his campaign that he would repeal the Muslim Ban on his first day in office. He did so via executive order on January 20, 2021. The State Department then announced a plan to re-adjudicate some (but not all) visas denied in accordance with the ban.