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Executive Order Suspends Certain Green Card Applications & Hints That Additional Immigration Restrictions Are Forthcoming

President Trump signed an Executive Order, effective at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23, 2020 (the “Effective Date”), suspending the processing of certain green card applications for 60 days. The suspension only applies to green card applicants who are outside the US as of the Effective Date and have neither an immigrant visa as of the Effective Date nor an official travel document other than a visa (such as Advance Parole). Thus, those who have applied or wish to apply to adjust their status to green card holder through an I-485 filing are generally exempt from the suspension. 

In addition, the suspension does not apply to many other categories of foreign nationals, including:

  1. green card holders (lawful permanent residents),
  2. green card applicants seeking to enter the US as a health care professional or to perform services “essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak,”
  3. EB-5 Investor green card applicants,
  4. spouses and minor children of US Citizens, and
  5. green card applicants “whose entry would be in the national interest.”  Consular Officers at US Embassies and Consulates abroad have the discretion to determine if the green card applicant is exempt from the suspension. They will determine if the applicant will be performing services that are “essential” to COVID-19 issues or is in the national interest. Thus, the status of green card applicants in those two categories is particularly uncertain and risky.

The Order specifically allows foreign nationals to continue applications for asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Order expires at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, June 22, 2020, but may be extended “as necessary. Further, by Saturday, May 23, 2020, the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Secretary of State will jointly recommend whether additional immigration restrictions regarding temporary work visa programs (such as H-1B’s) should be implemented. Given the language in the Order discussing how unemployment claims have reached “historic levels” and the “impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market,” it seems likely that additional immigration restrictions are forthcoming. We are keeping a watchful eye on this and will alert you of the scope and impact of any new restrictions.

Please contact us with any questions about the scope or impact of this Order, either generally or specifically as it applies your case(s).

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