The American presidential election took place on November 3rd and Joe Biden has now been named the President-Elect. As the Biden team prepares to take office on January 21, 2021, they are already contemplating policy changes that they would like to enact once they are in place.

There are already a number of expected changes on the immigration front. Immigration policies in the United States have been changed frequently over the past four years, as the Trump administration issued more than 400 executive orders regarding immigration since 2017.

Immediate Policy Changes Expected

The Biden administration has announced plans to reverse some of the stances the previous administration has taken on immigration. The president elect’s team has indicated that they will move to restore a program from Barack Obama’s time in office that would protect over 600,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. Further, Biden intends to end the travel and immigration restrictions that were placed on several countries by the Trump administration. The so-called “travel ban” applied to largely Muslim-majority countries, according to the Washington Post.

A Freeze on Deportations

The Biden administration is also planning to freeze deportations for 100 days after inauguration in order to issue guidance to immigration agents as to who can be arrested. This again would represent a return to the Obama era policies that prioritized the apprehension of unauthorized immigrants with criminal records. The Obama era policies were eschewed by the current administration, which eliminated exemptions from arrest or deportation. Biden’s plan would reduce “collateral arrests” which are arrests of unauthorized immigrants who are not the target of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation but are taken into custody anyway.

An Increase in Refugee Admissions

Refugee admissions are also set to increase as President-Elect Biden has promised to open more spots for refugees. The incoming administration is planning to raise the cap on refugees to 125,000, up from an all-time low of 15,000 set by the current administration. Further, Biden has promised to grant Temporary Protected Status to some Venezuelans who are currently in the United States in order to protect them from deportation.

No Changes Announced as Yet to Visa Programs During COVID-19

The Biden administration has yet to comment on whether they will make any changes to the pandemic limits on immigration and work visas. When the Trump administration announced a freeze on work visas, Canadians were exempted from the changes. It is unlikely that the Biden administration would remove this exemption, but without official word from the campaign it remains to be seen.

Regarding travel, Biden is likely to be in favour of keeping the borders closed based on the recommendations of his advisors. Currently, there is talk of a 4-6 week lockdown happening in the United States as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Each state varies on restrictions and mask mandates, and some states have quarantine requirements already, but the quarantine requirements vary throughout the country. With the recent announcement of positive vaccine news, it is possible the Canadian-U.S. border will be opened at some point in 2021. The President-Elect has promised to work together with Canada in order to establish solutions to immigration and travel problems both countries face so it is optimistic to think that when the border does open, the decision will be reached through mutual cooperation.

We will continue to provide updates to U.S. immigration policies as they are announced, as well as on travel restrictions as the situation changes. If you are planning to travel and you have questions about where you can go and what restrictions and requirements are in place, 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.

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