Processing of non immigrant visas, including H1B cases are taking a backseat for now as the Joe Biden administration turns its attention to more than 470,000 immigrant visa cases currently pending in US consulates across the globe - a 7x year on year uptick in this category since January 2020, according to latest data from US government.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas was non committal on whether Trump era bans on H1B (which expire March 31) would be lifted or how the Biden administration plans to proceed. "You know, I don't really -- I hate to end the questioning on a question, the answer to which I am not certain," he said at a White House briefing Monday. "Individuals fleeing persecution" is high priority, Mayorkas explained.
Pointing to the US job market meltdown during the pandemic, former President Donald Trump had frozen permanent residency for immigrants and halted temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs in the H-1B, H-4, H-2B, L-1 and J categories.
On February 24, the Biden administration issued a proclamation revoking the Trump ban that blocked individuals from entering the United States on immigrant visas but did not lift the freeze on H-1B, J-1, and L-1 visas, which remain in effect and are set to expire on March 31.
In two separate briefings on Monday, the Biden administration made it clear that non immigrant visa cases are not the priority right now.
"We have prioritized the processing of immigrant visas. Full stop," said Julie Stufft, Consular Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services. Stufft said the US will continue to prioritize immigrant visas for spouses and children of US citizens. Restrictions remain in place on visa issuance and entry into the United States for people from China, Iran, Brazil, UK, Ireland, South Africa, and 26 countries of the Schengen area but exceptions are made for spouses and children of US citizens and legal permanent residents.
At this time, more than 90 percent of America's 136 immigrant visa processing posts are processing "some immigrant visa services" while the remainder are only able to deliver emergency services. Only 43 of 233 nonimmigrant visa processing posts are processing routine nonimmigrants, all the others are only doing emergency services.