On April 22, 2020, President Trump suspended the issuance of certain immigrant visas at U.S. consulates abroad for at least 60 days.
This order does not prevent non-citizens already in the United States from applying for green cards with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). This order also does not suspend temporary (“non-immigrant”) visas such as H-1B and F-1 visas. However, non-citizens in the United States should consult with an attorney before considering any travel abroad.
Who Is Affected?
Under the April 22, 2020 proclamation, non-citizens applying under the following immigration categories will not be issued immigrant visas at a U.S. consulate abroad for at least 60 days, unless they qualify for an exemption:
- Most employment-based immigrant visa applicants (EB1, EB2, EB3, EW3, EB4), but not EB5 investor visa applicants
- Parents of U.S. citizens (IR5)
- Spouses of lawful permanent residents (F2A)
- Adult and minor children of lawful permanent residents (F2A, F2B)
- Adult children (21+) of U.S. citizens (F1, F3)
- Diversity visa (DV) lottery winners
- Siblings of U.S. citizens (F4)
- Certain religious workers (SD, SR)
- Most special immigrants (EB4), but not Iraqi and Afghan translators or Iraqis and Afghans who worked for/on behalf of the U.S. government
Note: Most U.S. consulates are closed and not issuing immigrant visas due to COVID-19, thus the practical impact of this will be limited unless the proclamation is extended beyond the date that U.S. consulates reopen. This proclamation also does not appear to affect the processing of immigrant visa petitions (e.g. I-140, I-130), whether at the USCIS or National Visa Center (NVC) stage.
Who is Not Affected?
- Lawful permanent residents (“LPR” or “green card” holders)
- Asylees and Refugees
- Non-immigrant (temporary) visa applicants (e.g. F, H, K, S, T, U)
- Spouses of U.S. citizens (IR1, CR1)
- Minor children (<21) of U.S. citizens (IR2, CR2)
- Applicants for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture
- Prospective adoptees of U.S. citizens (IR4, IH4)
- Anyone who was already in the United States on April 22, 2020
- Anyone who has been issued a transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole
- Iraqis and Afghans immigrating under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for interpreters, translators, and other individuals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government (SI, SQ)
What Are the Exemptions for Affected Individuals?
- Physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals, as well as their spouses and minor children (<21)
- Non-citizens coming to the United States to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19, as well as their spouses and minor children (<21)
- Essential workers who will help in combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as their spouses and minor children (<21)
- Members of the United States Armed Forces, as well as their spouse and children
- Non-citizens whose entry would “important law enforcement objectives”
- Non-citizens whose entry would be in the “national interest”
When Will the Proclamation Take Effect and How Long Will It Last?
The proclamation goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020. The order will be in effect for 60 days, but that can be renewed at the 50-day mark.
Could the Proclamation Be Expanded?
Yes. Trump and his team have made it clear of their intent to limit immigration as much as legally possible. On April 21, 2020, Trump acknowledged the possibility of expanding the order, possibly within 30 days. The proclamation specifically states that, within 30 days, they will consider expanding the order to include nonimmigrant visas like F-1 student visas, H-1B, L, O, E, TN, and other temporary work visas. It is possible the Administration might try to expand the order to apply to applications within the US as well.
What Can I Do Now?
If you are not a lawful permanent resident or a US citizen, but you might apply for a temporary immigration status or a green card in the future, talk to an attorney about filing now if you can. Here are some additional recommendations:
- If you are eligible for a green card, talk to an attorney about filing an application now.
- If you currently have temporary immigration status, talk to an attorney about filing an extension now. Most temporary visa holders can file an application to extend their status 6 months before their current status expires.
- If you do not yet have immigration status, talk to an attorney about your immigration options. Most new visa petitions for new employment can be filed up to 6 months before the start date of the visa.
Why is Trump Doing This?
Trump is using this order to rally up his political base in an effort to get re-elected. This has nothing to do with national security or the economy, as he disingenuously claims in the proclamation. The Administration is using this public health crisis as an excuse to get what they have wanted since his first day in office: a significant reduction in immigration.
Becker & Lee LLP wholeheartedly denounces this Administration’s continued attacks on immigrants and US citizens whose family members are immigrants. The Administration falsely claims that since permanent residents have unrestricted work authorization, they will take away jobs from American workers. In reality, Trump is using this order as an excuse to implement his racist and xenophobic immigration policies into law.
Becker & Lee LLP firmly believes that immigrants contribute to the United States economy. Many immigrants are business owners or hard-working professionals and skilled workers who create many more jobs than those Trump claims they allegedly take.
By: Camiel Becker, Christina Lee, and John Flanagan