The U.S. State Department recently clarified that the visa ban instituted by the Trump Administration earlier this year does not apply to spouses and dependents. The clarification is particularly helpful for spouses of Chinese and Indian nationals who are not permitted to get visas under alternative programs, such as the E2 and O1 programs (assuming, of course, they do not meet the wealth requirements to produce jobs in the U.S.)
Spouses Not Affected Under Certain Programs
The H1-B, H2-B, J1, and L1 visas are not affected by the visa ban if the spouse already holds a valid visa. Indeed, spouses and children can gain nonimmigrant entry through their spouses’ visas. However, there remains significant uncertainty for families due to unpredictable delays caused by the pandemic and furloughs at the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS). Moreover, H and J visa applicants who are traveling to the U.S. to assist in foreign policy objectives or traveling at the request of a federal agency can enter the U.S. However, the State Department hasn’t clarified which immigrants meet these categories. Therefore, there remains significant uncertainty.
Family Members May Obtain Visas
Many nonimmigrants and their families were and are stranded abroad following the recent visa ban. The ban also puts significant strain on U.S. companies who were suddenly unable to fill positions. Unfortunately, many U.S. consulates and embassies remain closed abroad. Therefore, even though many applicants may qualify for a visa, they are unable to apply for one. In particular, about 600,000 Indians hold H1-B visas primarily in the technology sector. Therefore, the visa ban disproportionately affects Indian nationals and tech companies.
There are anecdotal stories worldwide of families separated by the visa ban. One mother in India tweeted that she’s been separated from her spouse for eight months with her young baby due to the visa ban.
Procedure to Obtain Spouse and Dependent Visas
Spouses may apply for visas for themselves and their children if the principal visa holder holds a valid H1-B visa or is currently in the U.S. However, these spouses may have to apply for the visa in person at their local consulate or embassy. Spouse visa lawyers often provide families with more information about local procedures to get a visa.