Court Orders State Department to Process Visa Applications Fairly

A June 22, 2020 Presidential Proclamation banned the entry of most foreign temporary workers and J-1 exchange visitors to the U.S., ranging from professional level to manual labor workers.

In response, the National Manufacturers Association (NAM), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other businesses and trade associations sued the administration.   On October 1, 2020, ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor, a federal court blocked application of the entry ban to employees of the plaintiffs’ businesses or of any of the plaintiff associations member businesses.

The Court has now ordered the State Department to “treat visa applicants covered by the injunction no less favorably than any other visa applicant.”  It also ordered the State Department to maintain a list of businesses who are members of the trade association plaintiffs and to not “require further verification as to those entities.”

The necessity of the further court order indicates that at least some U.S. consulates were failing to comply with the original court order.

On November 20, 2020, the State Department issued a cable to all Consulates detailing how they should comply with the order.  It summarized that “Applicants are now considered covered by the NAM Court’s order so long as the petitioner or sponsoring entity is a member of one of the named plaintiff associations at the time of adjudication. Further, the Court ordered that the Department “treat visa applicants covered by the injunction no less favorably than any other nonimmigrant visa applicant.” The Department understands this to relate to appointment scheduling and adjudication at posts where regional COVID proclamations are in effect, and posts should extend the national interest exceptions under PP 10052 to applicants covered by the injunction.”

The Biden Administration is expected to  revoke this Presidential Proclamation shortly after taking office so that normal visa processing will resume at all U.S. Consulates that have reopened following COVID-19 closures.  Hopefully court orders will then no longer be necessary for foreign workers already approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be issued the visas they need to be able to travel to the U.S. to perform their work.