A federal judge has ruled that the US Department of State (DoS) must continue to issue US visas to eligible travelers during travel bans. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, travel bans have been used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with a blanket visa ban also applied. However, the federal judge ruled that this action is unlawful.
The judge’s ruling came following the filing of a lawsuit by a group of private individuals, supported by the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA), over the DoS’ refusal to issue US visas during the pandemic. The judge ruled that travel bans to prevent the spread of COVID is not a reason to cease processing visas for otherwise eligible travelers.
One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs during the case, posted on Twitter saying: “A travel ban does not amount to a visa ban.”
Unlawful for DoS to use travel bans to stop visa processing
The judge’s ruling makes it unlawful for the DoS to use travel bans, imposed by former President Donald Trump and upheld by current President Joe Biden, as a reason to stop processing US visas for travelers who are otherwise eligible.
Federal judge James E. Boasberg has now officially brought a halt to the DoS practice of not issuing US visas to travelers from other countries when a travel ban is in place.
Travel bans are enforced by way of a presidential proclamation and have been used to prevent US entry for non-citizens who are not permanent US residents.
Several bans, including bans on visitors from Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, India, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the UK remain in effect – though citizens of the UK will be allowed to enter from November, provided they can show proof of a COVID vaccine.
A travel ban on Chinese nationals has been in place the longest, starting in early 2020 amid reports the coronavirus outbreak occurred in China’s Wuhan City in late 2019.
Tech firms badly affected
Among the worst hit by the COVID-19 related travel bans were foreign employees of American tech firms. Thousands of tech workers, mainly from India, rushed home to tend to sick relatives, most recently in the spring and summer, after the Delta variant swept through the southern Asian nation, and were left stuck in India as a result of a travel ban upheld by Biden.
With the US government ordering embassies and consulates not to issue visas, people were also denied entry to the US after quarantining in another country that wasn’t their home nation. This meant thousands of families were separated as workers and students were left stranded abroad.
Despite the ruling, the judge has yet to issue an order instructing the US government on how to proceed.
However, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs said that the ruling ‘declares the illegality of the government misinterpreting the law going forward’.
“This is the first court order that has made a declaration on the government’s policy,” the lawyer added.
Workpermit.com can help with US employment-based visas
Workpermit.com is a specialist visa services firm with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Contact us for further details. You can also telephone 0344 991 9222.