On April 22, 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive order suspending the entry of individuals seeking entry to the United States on an immigrant visa. “Immigrant visa” refers to an application for permanent residency (i.e., green card) obtained at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. Despite initial indications that the order might have a broader impact and include a total suspension of immigration into the United States, the final publication of the order should cause minimal disruptions for most employers.
The suspension will initially last for 60 days, but may be continued “as necessary.”
It is important to note that as of March 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced the suspension of all routine visa services at consulates worldwide due to the spread of COVID-19. The practical impact of this order is therefore minimal, as consulates are not currently issuing any immigrant visas.
Specifically, the scope of the suspension is limited to applicants for immigrant visas who:
- are outside the United States as of April 23, 2020;
- do not already have an immigrant visa valid as of April 23, 2020; and
- do not have other permanent residency-related travel documentation (such as an advance parole document) that would permit them to enter the United States.
Individuals applying for a green card through the “adjustment of status” process from within the United States are not affected. If consular operations resume before the termination of the order, applicants for nonimmigrant visas (H-1B, L-1, TN, B-1, etc.) would similarly not be impacted.
Further, the immigrant visa suspension does not apply to the following individuals:
- lawful permanent residents of the United States (i.e., green card holders);
- applicants for immigrant visas who are intending to enter the United States:
- “as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional;”
- to perform medical research related to preventing the spread of COVID-19
- to perform any other work essential to deterring the COVID-19 outbreak;
- applicants under the EB-5 investor program;
- spouses of U.S. citizens;
- children or prospective adoptees of U.S. citizens under the age of 21;
- applicants who are essential to the furtherance of U.S. law enforcement objectives;
- members of the U.S. Armed Forces (and their spouses and children);
- applicants for Special Immigrant Visas in the SI or SQ classification; or
- any other applicant whose entry is deemed to be in the “national interest.”
In addition to the suspension of immigrant visas, the order notes:
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 [the president] other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.
While it is too early to speculate on what additional measures might be recommended, it is clear that the government is contemplating additional changes to the U.S. immigration system.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to the policy changes and will post updates on our immigration blog and in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available.