On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden officially assumed the office of the President of the United States. Changes by any new administration are of course to be expected, but the new president is wasting no time and has hit the ground the running. Following being sworn in, Biden immediately went to work signing 15 executive orders, undoing many policies that were put in place by the previous administration. Two pertinent orders relate to immigration in the U.S., including halting the funding and construction of the border wall between Mexico and the United States and a reversal on the travel ban that limited travel between the United States and certain Muslim-majority countries.
Biden also made some changes that will impact anyone who wishes to travel into the United States. On Thursday, an executive order was signed which requires all travellers into or within the United States, whether by plane, train or bus, to wear a mask while in transport. Although many travellers already wore a mask while on public transportation, the federal mask mandate made by the president will make it easier for airlines and other travel officials to enforce these protocols among their passengers.
In accordance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that suggest international travellers quarantine for seven days upon arrival to the United States, Biden signed another executive order on Thursday that mandates that travellers must comply with CDC orders regarding quarantine. Similar to the rule recently implemented for travellers entering Canada, as of Tuesday, January 26, international travellers must receive a negative COVID-19 test within three days prior to arriving in the United States in order to be allowed entry into the country. There may be further health measures that are implemented in the coming weeks, as the president has indicated to several United States agencies to commence diplomatic outreach to Canada and Mexico in order to establish health protocols for ports of entry between the countries.
The Canada-United States border is still officially closed to non-essential travel and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. However, there could be some news sooner than later, as prime minister Trudeau and president Biden are scheduled to have their first call as heads of their respective states today, Friday, January 22. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said that Canada plans to engage the United States in talks about the COVID-19 vaccine as well, so there could be positive news on that front coming soon as well.
Another interesting immigration development from the early days of the Biden administration comes as part of a proposal for an immigration reform bill that will be presented to Congress. The bill would award permanent residencies to farmworkers and create a fast track to citizenship to those impacted by the bill. To receive permanent residency, temporary agricultural workers who have spent at least 100 days in four of the last five years working in the United States as part of the H-2A visa program would be eligible for residency as long as they pass a criminal background check. Over 200,000 H2-A visas are issued each year, the majority to Mexican citizens.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are planning to travel, make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also require a carefully-timed COVID-19 test as well as a 14-day quarantine plan. If you are travelling to the United States, be sure to keep up to date on the regulations as they are expected to evolve over the coming weeks. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.