Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with even more immigration news.
In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the following new immigration updates: new vaccination policies and procedures being followed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following the release of the Proclamation, Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, new updates for certain B1/B2 tourists visa applicants, tips for U.S. permanent residents stuck overseas, and solutions for those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program that have not been able to leave the United States due to flight cancellations.
CBP Customs and Border Protection Operations in 2022
In a recent meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provided further clarification regarding admission of non-U.S. Citizens to the United States following the issuance of Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This new Proclamation requires non-citizens to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to gain admission.
CBP has made clear that the agency is not responsible for enforcing the vaccine requirement stipulated in the Presidential Proclamation.
Instead, CBP is merely responsible for enforcing all guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) such as ensuring that all air travelers, 2 years of age or older, present a negative COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before planned travel to the United States and proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 as mandated by the CDC. Travelers must show their negative result to the airline before boarding their flight.
Pursuant to CDC regulations, you are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine
- 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
- 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
- 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart*
* CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the of purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.
What happens if an airline refuses to let you board your flight where they have made a determination that you are not qualified to enter the United States?
CBP has said that they have a designated unit known as the Carrier Liaison Program (CLP) that assists carriers with questions regarding U.S. entry related matters. Airlines have the capability to contact the CLP to check whether an air passenger is cleared to board a flight. If an airline does not allow you to board a flight, you may request for them to contact the CLP for guidance.
CBP Carrier Liaison Program email address, CLP@dhs.gov; Carrier Liaison number at (571) 468-1650
Humanitarian Emergency Exceptions to the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement
CBP has said that the agency will be following the CDC guidelines to determine whether an air traveler is eligible for a humanitarian emergency exception to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. The CDC currently allows a humanitarian or emergency exception to be granted only in very limited circumstances:
- when an individual must travel to the United States to preserve health (e.g., emergency medical evacuations, life-saving medical treatment) or safety (e.g., violence) and is unable to become fully vaccinated before travel.
Individuals who fit this very narrow exception criteria described in the Presidential Proclamation and CDC’s Order may contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in or nearest the country from which they are departing for the United States. The Embassy will then transmit the information to the CDC for consideration.
CBP will only honor humanitarian emergency exemptions granted by the U.S. Department of State. Any vaccine waivers that were granted before the issuance of the Proclamation, Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, will not be honored.
Where can I find more information about the Humanitarian Exception?
Applicants may review the procedures for applying for a humanitarian or emergency exception on the webpage of the Embassy or Consulate where they will apply. This link will lead you to the relevant embassy or consulate: https://www.usembassy.gov.
To facilitate the review of a humanitarian or emergency exception request, individuals should submit the following information to the embassy or consulate for transmission to the CDC. All information needs to be completed in full and in English for the request to be sent to CDC.
- Name (family name/surname, given name)
- Passport #
- Cell phone number (including country code) of passenger or head of household if family unit
- Email address of passenger or head of household if family unit
- US destination address
- Is US destination home address?
- Flight itinerary, including any connecting flights
- Flight #
- Departure airport and date of departure
- Arrival airport and date of arrival
- Vaccination Status
- Fully Vaccinated
- Name of vaccine product (or products if a combination)
- Date of first dose
- Date of second dose (if a two-dose series) PDF or photograph of vaccination record
- NOT Fully Vaccinated
- Fully Vaccinated
- Purpose of travel to the US and a brief explanation of why urgent travel is needed
- Justification for humanitarian or emergency exception to providing proof of being fully vaccinated(e.g., vaccine availability, passenger ineligible for vaccine at location, insufficient time to become fully vaccinated)
- Documentation to support justification (e.g., medical records, orders for emergency evacuation)
- Information regarding any other solutions that were sought prior to application (e.g., flight changes, testing en route, assistance in obtaining testing/vaccination, etc.)
Will CBP make a visa notation confirming that a non-citizen air traveler is fully vaccinated against COVID-19?
Many people have been asking this question and CBP has now given a definitive answer. No, CBP has said that they will not be making any stamps or visa notations indicating that an air traveler has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. CBP will only mark traveler passports with an entry stamp upon admission to the United States, as has always been the case.
Visa Waiver Program travelers stranded inside the United States with a valid ESTA
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a special program that allows citizens of designated countries to enter the United States as visitors (traveling for holiday and/or business, in transit) without first obtaining a non-immigrant business/tourist visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Eligible citizens need only apply for and receive an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to travel to the United States using a passport from a participating country. The program only allows for stays of up to 90 days without a visa. If you have been denied a U.S. visa in the past, you may not be eligible to travel under the VWP.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented renewed challenges for certain VWP travelers who have been unable to depart the United States due to flight cancellations. To provide relief to such travelers, CBP implemented the Satisfactory Departure procedure.
VWP entrants who were unable to depart the United States, before their period of admission expired, due to the ongoing Coronavirus travel restrictions, may request “Satisfactory Departure,” from either their local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or from a Deferred Inspection Site with Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
USCIS and Deferred Inspection sites have been authorized to grant such VWP entrants a period of up to 30 days (in excess of the period of VWP admission) in which to depart the United States. As long as a traveler leaves within the additional 30-day window, he or she will not be considered to have violated U.S. immigration laws by overstaying beyond their period of admission. It is important to highlight that the Satisfactory Departure program is still being enforced but on a much more limited basis. Applicants should contact a deferred inspection site or USCIS to determine whether they may qualify. For more information about Satisfactory Departure please check out our helpful links below.
Visitors entering the USA on a B1/B2 visa seeking COVID-19 vaccines
In the past few months there have been incidents where some visitors (mostly from Canada and Mexico) have tried to gain admission to the United States for the purpose of obtaining vaccination against COVID-19 because of the unavailability of vaccines in the individual’s home country. Some of these visitors have been flagged by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, while others have had their B1/B2 visas cancelled altogether because the government had erroneously found that in trying to secure a vaccine in the United States, such visitors were subject to the public charge rule and therefore inadmissible to the United States.
CBP has now reviewed these actions and determined that they were a mistake. The agency has made clear that any benefits received relating to COVID-19 vaccinations and testing are not subject to the public charge rule, and do not make a B1/B2 nonimmigrant inadmissible to the United States.
If your B1/B2 visa was erroneously revoked by CBP because of this mistake, you may immediately appeal the decision and seek reinstatement at a Deferred Inspection Site or port of entry.
Incomplete I-94 Arrival/Departure Records
Some individuals have recently reported that upon retrieving their I-94 arrival/departure record on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection webpage, their travel history has shown up as incomplete with some arrivals and departures missing from their record.
CBP has said that a travel record may appear as incomplete because some of the information is considered confidential. For that reason, not all of your travel history may be available on the online system. If you find any inaccurate or missing data on your I-94 you may contact CBP online to correct the information by navigating to this webpage and explaining the issue. You may upload any relevant documentation attached where needed. You may also visit a CBP Deferred Inspection Site in person to resolve your issues.
Green Card Holders Stranded Overseas for more than 1 year
In their meeting with AILA, CBP confirmed that U.S. permanent residents stuck overseas who have been unable to re-enter the United States for more than 1 year, due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions and/or inability to secure appointments at U.S. Embassy or Consulates abroad, can expect to receive discretionary flexibility when re-entering the United States. However, such individuals must be prepared to show documentary evidence of their inability to return to the United States due to COVID-19 obstacles, efforts made to re-enter on a timely basis, and evidence that shows the circumstances were beyond your control.
Based on recent CBP guidance, if you can provide such documentary evidence to the satisfaction of the CBP officer, you will be allowed to re-enter the United States.
We hope you found this information helpful. To find more information about these topics, please check out our helpful links below.
Need Immigration Help? Contact Us Today. If you have any further questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- CDC Vaccination Guidance for Air Travelers
- Accepted COVID Vaccinations CDC Guidance
- Humanitarian Emergency Exceptions to the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement
- I entered on the Visa Waiver Program, now I’m stuck in the US. What can I do to prevent an Overstay?
- CBP Deferred inspection Sites
- Ask CBP Webpage: Incorrect or Missing I-94 Information
- DOS Proposed Rule to Raise Several Consular Service Fees including E Visas, B1/B2, J-1 Waivers, BCC, and More
- U.S. Embassies and Consulates
- Department of State U.S. Visa News
- January 2022 Visa Bulletin
- NVC Contact Information
- Immigrant Visa Prioritization Schedule
- Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick YouTube Channel
- NVC Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
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