Public Policy Roundup: Worldwide ERC® Supports Efforts to Streamline Visa Operations, Updates to US Travel, and More

Here’s what you need to know about public policies currently impacting the workforce mobility industry.

Concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant are increasing, which is why we’re seeing more governments, private businesses, and industry groups calling for employees to get mandatory vaccinations, which could receive significant backlash. Meanwhile, the U.S. decided to not lift any existing travel restrictions, while the U.K. has introduced a new visa for individuals from “top global universities.” Speaking of visas, Worldwide ERC® joined the U.S. Travel Association on a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Blinken to address the current delay in the issuance of visas. Read on to learn more:

Worldwide ERC® joins letter to US Secretary of State in support of streamlined visa operations

Worldwide ERC® joined the U.S. Travel Association on a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Blinken to address the current delay in the issuance of visas. The delay in visas has been a significant issue for Worldwide ERC® members on not only the relocation of transferees but also for executives and family members traveling to the U.S. for business, as well as to see family.

According to CIEE, just 57 of 237 visa processing sites were fully operational and three-quarters of consulates conducting visa processing are either fully or partially closed as recently as early April. As of May 2021, just over one million immigrant visas were in various states of processing, more than twice the total of immigrant visas issued in 2019, according to The State Department. The average wait for a visa interview is currently more than three months (95 days), and longer than 6 months for nearly one-quarter (22%) of visa applicants.

The letter requests that Blinken address the problem by developing a plan to restore routine operations at U.S. Embassies and Consulates, taking steps to streamline and modernize visa adjudication, and ensure priorities for visa processing supports U.S. economic recovery efforts.

US will not lift any existing travel restrictions

On 26 July, the White House announced that it would not lift any existing travel restrictions due to concerns over the Delta COVID-19 variant and rising coronavirus cases. Restrictions include those on nonessential travel to Canada and Mexico, which were recently extended through 21 August, even though Canada has announced that it would open its borders to nonessential travel with the U.S. on 9 August. Restrictions also include most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the U.K., the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without internal border controls, or in Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

USCIS announces that employers may file H-2B petitions for returning workers for FY 2021

On 23 July, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that employers may file H-2B petitions for returning workers under the FY 2021 H-2B supplemental visa temporary final rule. If employers feel that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm without these additional workers, they may take this action. Petitions for returning workers will be accepted until 15 September 2021, or until the remainder of the cap is reached, whichever occurs first. Returning workers are defined as workers who were issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status in FY 2018, 2019, or 2020.

New UK visa planned for graduates of 'top global universities'

On 23 July, it was announced that individuals who have attended what is considered a “top global university” will be eligible to move to the U.K. without a job. These individuals will fall under the new “High Potential Individual” route as part of the U.K. government’s new innovation strategy and efforts to boost private sector investment. While it is yet unspecified which universities and individuals will quality, the U.K. government “will explore the scope to expand eligibility to other characteristics of high potential.”

Vaccine mandates gaining ground

With concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant, more U.S. state governments, private businesses and the federal governments are looking to mandatory vaccinations for their employees. This includes the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), California state employees and health care workers, and New York City municipal workers, including teachers and police officers. The San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance, which represents 500 bar owners, will require patrons to show proof of vaccination, while 50 medical groups have called for mandatory vaccination for health care workers. Internationally, countries such as Italy and France are requiring health workers to get vaccinated, which has caused some to protest, representing how controversial vaccine mandates, and by extension vaccine certificates, can be.

Some members of Congress are calling for another extension of the CDC’s eviction moratorium

Some members of Congress are calling on the Biden Administration to extend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction ban before its set to expire on Saturday. However, the extension stands on shaky legal grounds, as a majority of Supreme Court justices signaled their belief last month that the CDC exceeded its legal authority when imposing the ban on evictions during the COVID-19 crisis. The last extension of the ban was on 24 June, said by the CDC to be the last extension. It is unlikely that the CDC will contradict the Supreme Court. We will be keeping track of this matter as it develops.

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How This Impacts Mobility

For the workforce mobility industry and Worldwide ERC® members, our signage of a letter to Secretary Blinken ensures that the State Department can adequately address visa operations at U.S. Embassies and Consulates, modernize visa adjudication and ensure priorities for visa processing supports U.S. economic recovery efforts. We will be tracking how the State Department will ultimately propose how to streamline delays given the U.S. is not lifting travel restrictions.

The U.S. deciding not to lift its travel restrictions means that returning to pre-pandemic levels of travel, especially within mobility and business travel, will take more time. Meanwhile, returning workers may now take the necessary steps to file H-2B petitions for returning workers for FY 2021, while the U.K.’s new visa for individuals from top global universities is another way countries are prioritizing skilled migration.

With vaccine mandates gaining ground, employers will need to be aware of their options, weighing the pros and cons for requiring employees to be vaccinated. Finally, if the eviction moratorium is extended again, it may affect transferees in that apartments that a transferee thought would be available for temporary housing may not become available if the current tenant refuses to leave at the end of a lease term.

Should any member have questions regarding these updates, please reach out to our Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy Rebecca Peters, rpeters@worldwideerc.org.

Join Our 5 August Webinar!

Join Worldwide ERC® Public Policy Leaders virtually on 5 August, 2021, at 11:00 a.m. ET as we discuss what to expect in the coming months and how you can play a part in our advocacy efforts in the webinar “Will the U.S. Business Tax Rate Change – and Will It Affect You?”

As we emerge from the global pandemic, we find ourselves already half-way through the first year of the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress. Will federal policymakers be able to reach agreement on top issues of concern to the global mobility and relocation industry – and what might the implications be on U.S. businesses? Will the business tax rate change? What is the current state of all-things real estate and mortgage? What other public policy surprises could be on the way?

Sign up today for the 5 August Worldwide ERC® webinar and gain valuable insight into where public policy is going and how you can help shape it. The following Worldwide ERC® public policy leaders and staff will be a part of the conversation:

  • Real Estate and Mortgage Forum Chair Jay Hershman, Baillie & Hershman
  • Tax Forum Vice Chair, Jen Stein, GTN
  • Regulatory and Compliance Vice Chair Jeff Margolis, SIRVA
  • Rebecca Peters, Worldwide ERC® Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy (moderator)