The new President of the United States, Joe Biden, has had a busy start in the White House. During his first three days in office, he already signed more than 30 executive orders.
Joe Biden is not only reversing many of the measures taken by his predecessor Donald Trump but is also directly addressing what he sees as America's six biggest crises to overcome. In his first speech as the 46th President of the United States, he named these as follows: the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, growing inequality, racism, America's role in the world, and protecting truth and democracy.
With so many changes happening in such a short period, it's not easy to keep track of everything. Therefore, we have summarized the most important decisions regarding travel and immigration to the United States as well as the other key topics mentioned above.
Due to the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, severe restrictions on entering the USA have been in effect since March 2020. They will remain in place under Joe Biden's administration and have been reinforced by the decision announced on January 25th, 2021. The following applies until further notice:
The travel ban for anyone who has been in the 26 countries of the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, or Brazil in the 14 days prior to entering the US has been renewed and remains in effect.
Due to the risk of the virus mutation that occurred there, the travel ban will also apply to travelers from South Africa from January 30th, 2021.
The existing travel bans for China (including Hong Kong and Macau) and Iran remain in place.
Please note: In addition to the current regulations, all travelers who are not affected by the travel ban will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test (not older than 72 hours) or a document certifying they have overcome their illness (not older than 90 days) when entering the United States as of January 26th, 2021!
The travel regulations are expected to be reviewed by the US authorities every 30 days and adjusted if necessary. Detailed information on entering the USA, ESTA, and the required COVID-19 test can be found here.
Joe Biden's administration aims to implement a more progressive immigration legislation again. The new President emphasizes America's historical legacy as a country of immigration and views diversity as an opportunity for growth. During his first days in office, he has therefore signed a series of executive orders designed to roll back the countervailing developments of recent years. The measures include:
Freeze funding for the construction of the border wall to Mexico
Repealing the Trump administration's "Muslim Ban," which excluded passport holders from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States
Strengthening DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals): permanent residency status for children who have come to the US undocumented, and in the long term, the prospect of acquiring citizenship for these individuals.
In addition to the recently signed executive orders, Joe Biden plans to send a broad immigration reform bill to Congress.
The chances of winning the Green Card Lottery would improve considerably overnight, as the bill proposes to significantly increase the number of Green Cards issued through the Diversity Visa Program - from 55,000 to 80,000 Green Cards per year! Since the lottery was introduced in 1994, there have been many discussions about abolishing it or reducing the amount of Green Cards, but never has an increase in the contingent been considered! For all those who dream of a life in America, this is fantastic news!
Would you like to learn more about the Green Card Lottery? You can find all the relevant information here.
Other measures planned as part of a new immigration law include:
Prohibiting religious discrimination in travel bans
Limiting the President's authority to issue travel bans
Simplifying the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been living in the US for a long time
Green Cards for "Dreamers," Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet certain requirements
Changes in allocating employment-based visas and Green Cards, e.g., there should no longer be limits on Green Card quotas for specific countries of origin. Instead, the labor market situation is to be taken into account in order to establish limits by industry.
More severe penalties for employers who violate labor laws, increased inspections by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor
Decreasing illegal immigration by supporting the countries of origin (especially Latin American countries)
Back to the measures that have already been put in place: the new President also wasted no time in other areas beyond immigration and travel. Most notably, Joe Biden signed a whole series of orders and actions to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its immediate economic consequences. Moreover, long-term goals such as combating climate change and achieving economic growth have been addressed. The most important measures of the new administration are:
Stopping the withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO); Dr. Anthony Fauci becomes the head of the US delegation to the WHO
Establishing a new task force to combat the coronavirus pandemic
Extending coronavirus testing and data analysis capabilities
Social distancing and wearing masks becomes mandatory in federal buildings, trains, long-distance buses, airplanes, and airports for 100 days
Using the Defense Production Act to manufacture corona tests, vaccination supplies (e.g., syringes), and PPE (e.g., masks, medical gowns), and to support the development of therapeutics
Setting up additional immunization centers with the help of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Financial assistance for citizens who cannot afford food, have not received any stimulus checks yet, or are unemployed
The legal right for citizens to receive Social Security benefits even if they have previously turned down job offers due to an increased risk of infection
Extending the existing nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until at least March 31st, 2021
Restoring collective bargaining power and worker protections for federal employees; also laying the groundwork for a $15 minimum wage
Order to strengthen domestic products and services ("Buy American"). To this end, the US government itself is to restrict the purchase of foreign products/services as far as possible.
Appointing financial supervisors at key decision-making bodies, e.g., the stock exchange supervisory authority
Rejoining the Paris Agreement on Climate Change within 30 days
Halting the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline
Order to review more than 100 of Donald Trump's environmental policies
Lifting the ban on transgender Americans serving in the military
Prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity
Extending the existing pause on student loan payments and associated interests until at least September 30th, 2021
Rescinding the 1776 Commission to "promote patriotic education" created by the Trump administration