Stranded abroad: Some options to consider for returning to the United States

By The SATimes News Service

By Dev Banad Viswanath, Esq.

As the Black Cloud of the Covid Pandemic lingers, society and government have come to the point where we must accept that we must live life with this issue at least until a vaccine or cure is found, and most likely it will be a part of life for years to come. Therefore, we must think and prepare for the fact that life will and has to move on.

Right now there are thousands of people who have, for lack of a better word, been “stranded” outside the United States, largely because of Covid 19, but also because of restrictionist actions by this administration to reduce the number of immigrants and people of color who are entering the country. There are thousands of Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders), who left the U.S. for extended trips abroad and got caught outside the country when coronavirus hit and therefore remained out because of the dangers involved with travel.  It is still not terribly safe to travel, but we do what we must. And to that end,  green card holders must decide if they are going to: 1) return to the United States before one year of being out has passed; 2) file for SB-1 returning resident visa to be allowed a single entry back and preserve their status; 3) apply for a green card all over again at a time which is more safe for travel; or 4) forget about coming back to the United States permanently and consider other non-immigrant options that may be available.

Currently, under President Trump’s June Executive Order there are also several new immigrants who are not allowed to be granted entering the US for the remainder of 2020.  He has mandated that any new immigrants, except for certain immediate relatives of US citizens, be banned from being granted lawful resident status or entering the US until December 31, 2020 so that they don’t add additional competition for jobs in the US or Government benefits while the US is working on how to deal with economic recovery from the Covid Pandemic. Although several lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the Executive Order, the Courts have not ruled against the President on this. The more common legal belief is that the Order will, for all practical purposes, remain in place until January 2021 anyway.  New Immigrants must be patient and always be alert to new developments which may happen.

Additionally, because Consular Posts and Embassies around the world have been closed for several months, it has created a huge backlog of immigrants and nonimmigrants alike, who are waiting for their opportunity to get a visa and enter the US.  While some posts have opened up more widely, still others have remained closed or opened up only moderately. This has created additional delays and frustration. But the recent openings in a variety of Consular Posts have been favorably received as new positive developments and it is our hope that more and more will open up.

Just 3 weeks ago it was announced that many US missions around the world would not only start processing F-1 Students, J1 Exchange Visitors, and Renewals or H1B and L1 visa holders. It was also announced about 2 weeks ago that renewals in all non-immigrant visa categories, eligible for interview waiver and dropbox issuance, could now do so.  The US posts in India, for example, have begun the same.  The interview waiver also applies to certain elderly and very young people.  The problem that people will face is the time in generally, and the limited capacity of the consular posts to adjudicate all the applications waiting to be processed. And therefore, those who think they may qualify, may make applications for emergency appointments whenever possible.  But those appointments are exactly that, for “emergencies”.

All in all, there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of people eager to come back to the United States and with a bit of patience and some strategic planning, I feel comfortable in saying that the processing and life for visa issuance will continually return to some semblance of normal.

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