The US Department of State has announced exemptions to the ban on various non-immigrant visas, including the H-1B, J and L visas among others.

 A woman and a child both wearing masks and a face shield pushing luggage at the airport
Atom H-1B Saturday, July 18, 2020 - 12:26

In what comes as a major relief for spouses and dependents of valid H-1B visa holders stranded in India, they will now be able to get their visa stamped and travel back to the US to join their spouse or parent.

The US Department of State has announced exemptions to the ban on various non-immigrant visas, including the H-1B, H-2B, H4, among others.

If you are the spouse or child of a person who has a valid H-1B visa, or has applied for one and is in the US, you will now be able to get your H4 visa stamped to join them back in the US.

“The Department of State will continue to issue H-4, L-2, and J-2 visas to otherwise qualified derivative applicants who qualify for a national interest exception, such as those seeking to join a principal applicant currently in the United States,” the department of state said.

This would bring relief to hundreds of families that were impacted by the president proclamation. Several women and their children were stranded in India, while their spouse was back in the US. These were people who travelled back to India for stamping of their visas, for medical emergencies and for other personal reasons and were stranded here once international travel was suspended. The US announcing a ban on non-immigrant work visas only made matters worse with them unable to travel back to the US to join their spouse.

The H-1B, H-2B, J and L are skilled and unskilled work visas issued to foreign nationals to work in the US. H-1B visas are issued to certain skilled workers such as those employed in science, engineering and IT and H-4 visas are given to immediate family members of H-1B holders.

J-1 visas are issued to research scholars, professors and other cultural and work-exchange programs, while J-2 is issued to spouses and dependents of J-1 visa holders.

The L-1 visa allows large corporations to temporarily send executives, managers and specialized knowledge employees to their office or affiliate in the US and spouses and dependents of these visa holders are issued the L-2 visa.

The exceptions granted to these visa holders states that national interest exceptions are available to those who accompany or follow to join the principal applicant (H-1B, L-1 and J-1 visa holders) who is a spouse or parent.

“This exception can be extended to derivative applicants when the principal is currently in the United States or has a valid visa,” the announcement states.

Derivative applicants here refers to spouses and dependents, while the principal refers to the person applying for or holding a valid visa.

Some exceptions have been granted for H-1B visas as well. Those looking to travel as a public health or healthcare professional, or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to conduct ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit will be exempted from the presidential proclamation.

This includes those traveling to work or research in an area of public health that may not directly be related to COVID-19 but has been adversely impacted by the pandemic.

Travel supported by a request from a US government agency or entity to meet critical US foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligations will also be allowed to travel.

“This would include individuals, identified by the Department of Defence or another U.S. government agency, performing research, providing IT support/services, or engaging other similar projects essential to a U.S. government agency,” the announcement added.

The entire list of exceptions can be found here.

The US department of State has asked those who fall into these exempted categories to request a visa appointment at the closest embassy or consulate and has said that a decision will be made at the time of interview. 

Read: 174 Indian nationals file lawsuit against Trump's proclamation on H-1B

Also read: ‘The way it has been carried out is inhuman’: The human cost of suspending H-1B visas

In the arduous US immigration system, I got my chance. Now, many may not