On April 20, 2020, President Trump tweeted that he will be signing an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States to protect American jobs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed the Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.
Prior to the implementation of this Executive Order, much of the U.S. immigration infrastructure was already closed due to COVID-19. U.S. Consular Posts abroad have been closed since March, which has prevented individuals from applying for visa stamps and certain visas (Blanket L and E-Visas) permitting them to travel to the United States. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) closed local offices and suspended interviews and biometrics appointments until May 3, 2020. Additionally, expansive travel restrictions for individuals traveling from Europe and China have also made it difficult, if not impossible, for U.S. visa holders to travel to the United States.
The Executive Order
Following issuance of the Proclamation, which takes effect at 11:59 PM on April 23, 2020, the United States will suspend the entry of new permanent residents into the United States for at least 60 days. This suspension applies only to individuals (1) outside the United States; (2) who do not have an immigrant visa valid as of April 23, 2020, and; (3) do not have another official travel document (i.e., an Advance Parole document). The suspension impacts those seeking entry as permanent residents for the first time. There are limited exceptions to the suspension, including health care professionals and researchers, spouses of U.S. citizens, children of U.S. citizens, and EB-5 Investors, among other exceptions.
At this time, it does not appear that the Proclamation will impact on-going or new Adjustment of Status applications with USCIS or anyone seeking entry as a non-immigrant (e.g., H-1B, L-1, F-1) assuming those individuals have a valid, unexpired visa in their passport. However, in light of on-going restrictions on travel to the United States due to COVID-19, travel outside the United States even with a valid, unexpired visa is not recommended at this time.
Possibility of Additional Immigration Restrictions
One section of the Proclamation proves particularly worrisome. Section 6 states that “within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employ of United States workers.” (Emphasis added) Stay tuned for updates as that 30 day deadline approaches on May 23, 2020.
For businesses and individuals who are affected by the Proclamation, or who could be affected by future immigration bans, we would encourage you to reach out urgently to federal and state representatives with your concerns.
The Immigration team at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP will continue to monitor additional impacts on U.S. immigration due to COVID-19. If you have any questions or require advice due to existing restrictions, please contact Teri A. Simmons, Montserrat C. Miller, or Will Adams.