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New Executive Order Restricts US Entry of Foreign Workers

President Trump has issued an Executive Order restricting foreign nationals from entering the US in various temporary work visa categories (H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 categories, restricting entry of family members requiring derivative visas), and extending the processing of green card applications for those who were outside the US as of April 23, 2020 and had neither an immigrant visa as of then nor an official travel document other than a visa (such as Advance Parole).

Stating that “the overall unemployment rate in the US nearly quadrupled between February and May of 2020”, that there is a “lack of sufficient alternative means to protect unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents”, and that “the present admission of workers within several nonimmigrant visa categories also poses a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the current recovery”, he has ordered the following immigration restrictions. He has also ordered examinations to determine what additional restrictions should be implemented in the near future.

Work Visas

Effective June 24, 2020, foreign nationals cannot enter the US in the following visa categories: H-1B, H-2B, H-4, L-1, L-2, J-1 (only trainees, interns, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work travel program participants), and J-2 if they are outside the US on June 24, 2020 AND do not have a valid visa or another official travel document (ex: advance parole). For example, H-1B’s and L-1’s who are abroad can return to the US to work if they have a valid visa in their passports as of June 24, 2020, and the foreign national is not subject to a travel ban relating to COVID-19. This restriction is in effect through December 31, 2020, and may be extended. Visa issuance and entry into the US for other visa categories, such as E-1, E-2, E-3, O-1, P, TN (Canadian and Mexican), and J-1 categories for categories including college and university student, physician, professor, research scholar, secondary school student, short-term scholar, and specialist, have no restrictions.

The restrictions do not apply to children and spouses of US citizens, those seeking to enter to provide temporary services essential to the US food supply chain, and those whose entry would be in the national interest. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security will establish standards to define whose entry is in the “national interest”, and they will include those that are critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the US, 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 US medical research to help the US combat COVID-19, or are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.

Green Cards

The President has extended the earlier Executive Order (Proclamation 10014) suspending the processing of green card applications for those who were outside the US as of April 23, 2020 and had neither an immigrant visa as of then nor an official travel document other than a visa (such as Advance Parole). This suspension has been extended through December 31, 2020 and may be continued. The USCIS will continue to process I-140 & I-130 immigrant/green card petitions, but foreign nationals abroad will not be able to take those approved petitions to US Consulates and Embassies to apply for their green cards. Foreign nationals in the US as of April 23, 2020 can continue as normal to file their I-485 adjustment of status petitions with the USCIS requesting that their status be adjusted from their current immigration status (ex: H-1B or L-1) to that of lawful permanent resident/green cardholder.

Coming Next

The Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security is determining whether additional restrictions are necessary to ensure those who have been granted or are seeking H-1B status or EB-2 or EB-3 green cards do not disadvantage US workers. If any such additional restrictions are announced, we will provide an update.

Before being permitted to enter the US, all foreign nationals will be required to be registered with biographical and biometric information, including but not limited to photographs, signatures, and fingerprints. This information will likely be collected as part of every visa application, and, for those from visa waiver countries (ex: most European countries), they may be required to provide that information at the airport before US entry.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of the CDC, will provide guidance to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to implement measures to reduce the risk that foreign nationals entering the US may introduce, transmit, or spread SARS-CoV-2. This will likely involve enhanced medical screening procedures for all foreign nationals entering the US.

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