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President Trump’s Visa Ban Severely Limits Legal Immigration For 2020

Visa ban bars entry to the U.S. for most H-1B, J-1, L-1, and H-2B visa holders

On June 22, 2020 President Trump signed the Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak barring individuals and their dependents from entering the United States on certain “nonimmigrant” visas.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Presidential Proclamation.

Taken together, the immigrant and nonimmigrant bans... over the last three years, have effectively shut down some of the most significant legal immigration avenues for the rest of 2020.

What does the Proclamation do?

The President’s latest proclamation declares individuals will no longer be allowed to enter the United States using certain nonimmigrant visas (so-named because they are for temporary visits and work, not permanent immigration), even if they meet all the requirements. The ban is in effect for the rest of 2020, but can be extended further.

The order also extends through the end of the year the President’s previous ban on most employment, diversity, and family-sponsored immigrant visas, and directs the Secretaries of Labor, Homeland Security, and State to consider additional restrictions and policy changes for immigrants and nonimmigrants already present in the U.S.

Taken together, the immigrant and nonimmigrant bans, along with policy changes over the last three years, have effectively shut down some of the most significant legal immigration avenues for the rest of 2020.

For now, the ban is limited to individuals who are outside the U.S. and do not yet have a valid visa; it does not affect anyone who is in the U.S. now or already has a valid visa.”

Who is covered under the new ban?

The new ban covers a number of “nonimmigrant” visa categories, including:

  • H-1B (highly skilled workers in a “specialty occupation,” typically computer and tech-related roles)
  • H-2B (seasonal shortage workers, many work in landscaping and hospitality)
  • L-1 (intracompany transfers, where a manager or executive transfers from a foreign office to work temporarily in the U.S.)
  • J-1 (a cultural exchange visa, the ban applies here to those used for intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel programs)

Family members of individuals on the above visas are also barred from entering.

For now, the ban is limited to individuals who are outside the U.S. and do not currently have a valid visa; it does not affect anyone who is in the U.S. now or already has a valid visa. The order also includes a number of exemptions, including for children and siblings of U.S. citizens, workers involved in the food supply chain, and anyone who qualifies under a “national interest” definition.1

The Migration Policy Institute estimates the bans could collectively bar up to 325,000 individuals from entering the country by the end of the year, including approximately 167,000 temporary workers and their families, and about 158,000 prospective immigrants who have qualified for green cards but are barred under the previous order.

The bans could collectively bar up to 325,000 individuals from entering the country by the end of the year, including approximately 167,000 temporary workers and their families.”

What will the impact be?

The new ban will make the U.S. far less attractive to global talent, and could push employers to offshore work, moving production, investment, and jobs abroad, particularly in research & development, to the benefit of countries like China, India, and Canada. These types of permanent cuts to legal immigration also shrink the economy and cut jobs.

The harm of barring immigrants and temporary workers is magnified as the country continues to respond to and recover from COVID-19., immigrants and temporary workers have contributed significantly to COVID-19 response, providing critical technology and computer-related skills American businesses have relied on for accommodating remote work and the shelter-in-place. They have also been fighting the virus on the frontlines as health care professionals and essential workers.

Restricting H-1B visas and ending cultural exchange programs will close off avenues for international students to visit, stay, and work in the U.S. Ending these programs will accelerate the already alarming declines in international student enrollment at U.S. schools, spurring international students to take their talents elsewhere, benefitting our competitors and further weakening America’s reputation abroad.

The harm of barring immigrants and temporary workers is magnified as the country continues to respond to and recover from COVID-19.”

How does this Proclamation fit into the Administration’s past actions on immigration?

Throughout his Administration, President Trump has sought to restrict legal immigration, even attempting to leverage the fates of vulnerable groups like DACA and TPS recipients to force through permanent cuts to legal immigration levels. Even though the Republican-controlled Senate rejected this proposal, the Administration has used the global pandemic as a pretense to force these changes through temporary executive orders. Meanwhile, agency leaders have published numerous policy memos and proposed rules to restrict new immigrants and to make life more difficult for those already here.

The proclamation claims foreign-born workers “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers” and are “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The proclamation references the 13% unemployment rate in May, arguing that that “the United States economy will likely require several months to return to pre-contraction economic output, and additional months to restore stable labor demand.”

This contradicts the President’s own statements that future unemployment projections are incorrect and assurance that the economy will rebound in the second half of 2020. It also ignores that many individuals barred from entering work in fields with starkly low unemployment levels that have fallen even after COVID-19, while others, like the spouses of H-1B holders, won’t be eligible for work authorization for years.

What comes next?

The order went into effect at midnight on June 23, and both the immigrant and nonimmigrant bars will extend through December 31.

While the order only applies to individuals outside the U.S. who do not already have a valid visa, the order also instructs agency officials to draft and propose additional immigration restrictions, likely through notice and comment rulemaking.2

Reports also suggest the Administration is preparing a number of new rules not named in the order to suspend Optional Practical Training (OPT) for international graduates, and to end work authorization for H-4 visa holders waiting for green cards. Typically, the government would have to post these proposed changes and allow time to receive and respond to public comment; however, they could cite the pandemic to circumvent that requirement.

  1. The order leaves this up to the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Labor, and State to define this term, but does suggest this could include individuals who are “critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the United States; are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized; are involved with the provision of medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19; or are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.”
  2. The order mentions requiring biographical and biometric information before visas can be issued, barring individuals with removal orders or criminal charges from receiving work authorization, and additional H-1B restrictions, including restrictions for H-1B holders seeking green cards.
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