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Client Alert: Department of State Expands Criteria for National Interest Exceptions for Travelers from COVID-Restricted Countries

On May 27, 2021, the US Department of State (DOS) expanded the National Interest Exception (NIE) criteria for individuals subject to proclamations restricting travel to the United States due to physical presence in China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

The following categories of travelers may now apply and qualify for NIE:

  • Individuals providing vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure;
  • Individuals providing vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States;
  • Journalists;
  • Students and certain exchange visitors;
  • Immigrants; and
  • Fiancés.
  • The Department of State also continues to grant NIEs for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States from the restricted countries for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

Travelers in the above categories who have a valid visa stamp in the appropriate class or valid ESTA authorization for travel under the Visa Waiver Program seeking to travel to the United States should request the NIE from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling. Those needing a visa stamp should request the NIE when applying for the visa stamp. If approved, the NIE is valid for a single entry to the United States within 30 days of approval.

Students with valid F-1 or M-1 visa stamps traveling to begin or continue an academic program, or those who will be applying for visas, do not need an individual NIE to travel as they are automatically considered for NIE. Students who have been present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa are eligible for NIE only if their program of study, including Optional Practical Training (OPT), will begin on or after August 1, 2021. Students may enter the United States up to 30 days before the start of their program of study.

Travelers requiring a visa stamp and/or NIE should review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for further instructions specific to the post.

ICE Announces Extension, New Employee Guidance on I-9 Compliance Flexibility

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced an extension until August 31, 2021, of the flexibilities in rules related to Form I-9 compliance that were initially granted last year due to precautions related to COVID-19.

The latest extension includes guidance for employees hired on or after June 1, 2021, who work exclusively in a remote setting due to COVID-19-related precautions. Those employees are temporarily exempt from the physical inspection requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) process until they undertake non-remote employment on a “regular, consistent, or predictable basis,” or the extension of the flexibilities related to such requirements is terminated, whichever is earlier. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation.


USCIS Eases Visitor Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

Due to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its visitor policy. Fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear a face covering. Individuals two years old and older who are not fully vaccinated must still wear a face covering.

“Fully vaccinated” is defined as at least two weeks having passed after receiving a second dose in a two-dose series or at least two weeks having passed after receiving a dose of a single-dose vaccine.

USCIS also eased other requirements for fully vaccinated individuals who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Those who have returned from domestic air, international air, or cruise ship travel in the past 10 days may enter USCIS facilities if they are fully vaccinated. Individuals who have been in close contact (within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more) with anyone known to have COVID-19 in the previous 14 days may also enter USCIS facilities if they are fully vaccinated. Healthcare workers who consistently wear an N95 respirator and proper personal protective equipment or equivalent when in contact with COVID-19-positive individuals continue to be exempt from reporting close contact, USCIS said.

In Department of Homeland Security-controlled spaces, “this guidance supersedes state, local, tribal, or territorial rules and regulations regarding face coverings,” USCIS said.


DHS Suspends Certain Regulatory Requirements for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students From Burma (Myanmar)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated Haiti for temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months.

TPS will apply only to those individuals who are already residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021, and meet all other requirements. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after this announcement will not be eligible for TPS and may be repatriated, DHS warned. Haiti’s 18-month designation will take effect on the publication date of the Federal Register notice, to come shortly. The notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS and employment authorization documentation.


Higher Education Associations Urge Biden Administration to Take Action to Allow International Students to Return to Campus In Time for Fall Semester

The American Council on Education (ACE) and a group of higher education associations sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging them to take immediate action to allow international students to return to their campuses and institutions in the fall semester. “Given the processing time for visas, we believe there are actions that need to be taken now to allow enough time for processing and for international students to make plans to travel to the United States safely.” The associations ask for timely and efficient processing of visa applications and work authorizations, including optional practical training, among other measures.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators, sent a separate letter to Secretary Blinken, noting among other things that over the past four years, the United States “lost international students to competitors like Canada, Australia, and even China.”

The ACE letter notes a 43 percent decline in new international student enrollment at U.S. institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a decline in the overall economic impact generated by international students of $1.8 billion during the 2019-2020 academic year from $40.5 billion in the prior year. There were approximately 1.1 million international students in the United States in the 2019-2020 academic year.


CBP Continues Temporary Travel Restrictions From Canada, Mexico Into United States Via Land POEs and Ferries

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that temporary limits on nonessential travel of individuals from Canada or Mexico into the United States at land ports of entry along the border, including ferry service, will continue through June 21, 2021. The restrictions only allow processing for entry into the United States of those travelers engaged in “essential travel,” as defined in the notice.


Round Table of Former Immigration Judges Asks Attorney General to Review, Rescind Trump Administration Decisions

The Round Table of Former Immigration Judges (RTFIJ), a group of 40 former immigration judges and appellate-level judges of the Board of Immigration Appeals, sent a letter on May 25, 2021, asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to “review and rescind many, if not all, of the decisions that former Attorneys General Sessions, Whitaker, Barr, and Rosen certified to themselves.” RTFIJ said that the “vast majority of those decisions overturned decades of substantive and procedural immigration law and policy and are antithetical to an unbiased and independent immigration court system.”

RTFIJ singled out 17 cases divided into three general categories: (1) decisions regarding the authority of Immigration Judges to control and manage their dockets; (2) decisions involving the intersection of criminal and immigration laws; and (3) decisions that significantly contract substantive asylum laws. RTFIJ said it is especially concerned about the first and third categories, which “have turned the Immigration Courts into nothing more than cogs in the deportation machine, and Immigration Judges into prosecutors instead of fair and impartial adjudicators.” RTFIJ noted that instead of ensuring the issuance of more orders of removal, the Department of Homeland Security “succeeded only in increasing the case backlog exponentially while reducing the overall case completion rate.”


DHS, DOJ Announce New Dedicated Docket Process for Immigration Hearings

The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) announced on May 28, 2021, a new “Dedicated Docket” process intended to “significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for migrants to have their cases adjudicated while still providing fair hearings for families seeking asylum at the border.”

The effort is focused on families arriving between ports of entry at the southwest border and aims to have an immigration judge issue a decision within 300 days of the initial master calendar hearing, subject to the unique circumstances of each case.


DHS Issues Final Rule to Remove Vacated H-1B Rule

The Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule, effective May 19, 2021, that removes an interim final rule issued in October 2020 and later vacated by a federal district court, “Strengthening the H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program.” The interim final rule made changes to the regulatory definitions and standards for “specialty occupation,” “worksite,” “third-party worksite,” “U.S. employer,” “employer-employee relationship,” and others.

The final rule removes from the Code of Federal Regulations the regulatory text that DHS promulgated in the October 2020 interim final rule and restores the regulatory text to appear as it did before.


State Dept. Announces Updated Interpretation of Acquisition of Citizenship at Birth

The Department of State announced on May 18, 2021, an update in its interpretation and application of the requirements for acquisition of U.S. citizenship at birth in light of advances in assisted reproductive technology. Children born abroad to parents, at least one of whom is a U.S. citizen and who are married to each other at the time of the birth, “will be U.S. citizens from birth if they have a genetic or gestational tie to at least one of their parents and meet the [Immigration and Nationality Act’s] other requirements.” Previously, the Department’s interpretation and application of the INA required that children born abroad have a genetic or gestational relationship to a U.S. citizen parent. Requirements for children born to unmarried parents remain unchanged.




Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP Received Tier 1 Ranking in the 2021 Edition of U.S. News — Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms”
Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP has once again been selected in U.S. News — Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” in the 2021 edition.


Anu Nair
Sillicon India announced that Klasko has made Anu Nair the head of the Individual Case Unit (ICU) Department.

H. Ronald Klasko | Daniel B. Lundy  |  Jessica DeNisi
The third and final episode in a three-part series about problems in the EB-5 investor program was picked up by Mondaq.

H. Ronald Klasko | Daniel B. Lundy  |  Jessica DeNisi
Mondaq posted the second of the three-part series that cover issues relating to regional centers.


Anu Nair
On May 6th, Anu spoke in a NASALSA webinar event on a panel entitled How Women Navigate their presence in a Male-Dominated Field.

H. Ronald Klasko
On May 11th, Ron spoke in the 2021 AILA Asia-Pacific Chapter Annual Conference virtual event on a panel entitled Australian Outback: Scorcher Topics In The World of EB-5.

William A. Stock
On May 12th, Bill Stock spoke in this AILA Rome District Chapter Conference on a panel entitled CLE Navigating H-1Bs in a Pandemic.


H. Ronald Klasko
Ron will be speaking at the 2021 AILA Annual Conference on Immigration Law virtual event. He will be leading a discussion on a panel entitled Litigation: More Critical Now Than Ever Before for Business Immigration Practitioners on June 9th.

Elise A. Fialkowski
Elise will be speaking at the 2021 AILA Annual Conference on Immigration Law virtual event. She will be leading a discussion on a panel entitled Oh, Where Are the Good Old Times? Trying to Be an L-1 Intracompany Transferee on June 12th.

Andrew J. Zeltner
Drew will be speaking in a 2021 Tax Law virtual event on June 14th in a program entitled The Intersection of Tax & Immigration Law.


Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP Received Tier 1 Ranking in the 2021 Edition of U.S. News — Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms”
Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP has once again been selected in U.S. News — Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” in the 2021 edition. Read the full press release here.

H. Ronald Klasko
EB5 Investors Magazine has announced Ron Klasko as one of its Top Attorneys in Specialized Field award winners.

Anu Nair
EB5 Investors Magazine has announced Anu Nair as one of its Top 25 Immigration Attorneys award winners.

Oliver Yang
EB5 Investors Magazine has announced F. Oliver Yang as one of its Top 5 Rising Stars award winners.


June 2021 Visa Bulletin
In this blog, read a summary of USCIS’s update on quota movement and which chart to use for employment and family-based categories.

Statues of Liberty: An Immigration Podcast
In this final episode of the three-part series, Ron Klasko, Daniel Lundy, and Jessica DeNisi cover issues specifically related to litigation options. Listen here to Episode 24: Strategies for Resolving EB-5 Problems Series Part 3: Litigation Options.

A Beneficial Blast from the Past: Expanding Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act
Nigel D. James addresses how small changes to an immigration provision by Congress could benefit millions of noncitizens in the United States in this article.

Biden Administration Breathes New Life into The International Entrepreneur Parole Program
In this client alert, Andrew J. Zeltner covers the Biden Administration’s announcement to reinstate the International Entrepreneur Rule.

Client Alert: President Biden Set to Limit all Inbound Travel from India
In this client alert, Jordan J. Gonzalez covered reports that the Biden Administration was expected to restrict most inbound travel to the U.S. from India.

Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP Launched New EB-5 Podcast Series on Statutes of Liberty
In the three-part series, the renowned EB-5 attorney team, consisting of Ronald Klasko, Daniel Lundy, and Jessica DeNisi, discusses how the EB-5 immigrant investor program has been impacted by recent policy changes and the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full press release here.


Every month one Klasko employee is bestowed the prestigious Ronny Award. This month the Ronny Award went to Paralegal Jackie Strickler. Her nominator wrote:

“I am writing to nominate Jackie Strickler, who always has a kind word for anyone who needs it! She is a wealth of knowledge and yet so humble and easy to approach with questions or confusion. She is also always willing to give advice on a wide variety of topics, from work to personal issues. I am sure I speak for many KILP employees when I say Jackie makes KILP a better place to work!”

Congratulations, Jackie!

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This newsletter was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Klasko Immigration Law Partners is an active member.

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