Mar 31 2021

H/L/J Nonimmigrant Proclamation Set to Expire, But Travel Challenges Will Remain

United States

At a glance

  • Former President Trump’s ban on issuance of certain H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1 nonimmigrant visas is expected to expire tonight.
  • As of April 1, there will be no visa classification-based nonimmigrant travel bans in effect. However, several regional COVID-19 public health bans remain in place and may impede visa issuance and travel for many.
  • In addition, reduced operations and backlogs at U.S. consulates abroad may significantly delay scheduling of H, L and J visa appointments.

The issue

A Trump-era presidential proclamation suspending the entry of certain foreign nationals in the H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1 categories, and their dependents, is set to expire today.

The nonimmigrant proclamation had been in effect since June 24, 2020, and was initially scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020, but former President Trump extended the ban through March 31, 2021. President Biden revoked a companion Trump-era immigrant visa ban on February 25, 2021, but let the nonimmigrant ban run its course through the end of March.

The H/L/J nonimmigrant proclamation affected the following categories of nonimmigrants, subject to various exemptions and exceptions:

  • H-1B and H-2B nonimmigrants;
  • L-1A executives and managers;
  • L-1B specialized knowledge workers;
  • J-1 interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs and Summer Work Travel participants; and
  • Their dependent spouses and children. 

What is next for foreign nationals affected by the ban expiration?

Foreign nationals no longer subject to the H/L/J proclamation may nevertheless remain subject to ongoing regional COVID public health travel restrictions and reduced consular operations abroad, which could impede their ability to obtain a visa or reenter the United States. 

Regional travel bans remain in place for foreign nationals physically present in Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa and the United Kingdom within 14 days of attempting entry to the United States. Exceptions exist for certain family members of U.S. citizens and green card holders and for those whose travel is deemed in the national interest.

In addition, consular operations worldwide remain reduced due to COVID-19 public health measures. Significant visa application backlogs have formed as a result of COVID measures as well as the Trump-era immigrant and nonimmigrant visa bans, and are likely to grow as foreign nationals seeking H, L, or J visas submit applications and await visa appointments. Visa applicants should expect delays as consulates continue to phase in routine visa services and work through backlogs.

For those able to clear the existing regional travel bans, a negative COVID test or evidence of recent COVID recovery is required as a condition of any international air travel to the United States.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.