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Biden Reopens Gateway For Green Cards Reversing Trump COVID-19 Freeze

On Wednesday, President Biden lifted a Trump-era ban on green cards issued outside the United States and temporary work visas.
Carolyn Kaster
On Wednesday, President Biden lifted a Trump-era ban on green cards issued outside the United States and temporary work visas.

Updated at 9:04 p.m. ET

President Biden on Wednesday revoked a freeze that his predecessor had put on many types of visas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the order did not advance U.S. interests and hurt industries and individuals alike.

"It harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here," Biden said in a proclamation revoking the measure.

Former President Donald Trump had frozen "green cards" for new immigrants during the pandemic, arguing that the dramatic clampdown on legal immigration was vital to safeguarding the U.S. labor market during the pandemic to protect jobs and for public health reasons.

He also halted temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs in the H-1B, H-4, H-2B, L-1 and J categories.

In the measure announced on Wednesday, Biden did not lift the freeze on those types of temporary employment visas. Unless Biden takes steps to extend the freeze, it is set to expire on March 31, according to Trump's last extension of the measure.

But on Wednesday Biden said the earlier policy has prevented qualified and eligible non-U.S. residents from entering the country, "resulting, in some cases, in the delay and possible forfeiture of their opportunity ... and to realize their dreams in the United States."

The reversal by the new administration means that hundreds of thousands of foreigners who had expected to wait until the end of March for the chance to apply for the coveted visas, can do so immediately.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 26, 2021 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story reported President Biden had also rescinded an order banning H-1B, H-4, H-2B, L-1 and J categories visas. He has not.
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.