A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Trump's Executive Order Bars Overseas Immigrants for 60 Days

The While House released President Trump's "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak" today.  This is the Executive Order that Trump tweeted two days ago regarding suspension of U.S. immigration for 60 days.

The Proclamation orders that immigration of foreign nationals from overseas countries is suspended for 60 days starting 04/23/2020.  Further extension is possible afterward.  This applies to individuals seeking to immigrate to the U.S. as permanent residents from abroad.  Other visa classifications are not covered in this proclamation but future orders may affect non-immigrants such as holders of  F-1, H-1B, L-1A, O, etc. 

Exempt Immigrants
The following individuals are exempt from the order:
-  Immigrants who have been granted an immigrant visa before 04/23/2020 may still come in
-  Holders of U.S. green cards
-  Individuals who have valid travel documents such as advance parole, boarding foil, transportation letter, etc.
-  Spouses of U.S. citizens
-   Foreigners seeking to enter the U.S. to work in the medical field, perform medical research, or otherwise perform services that will combat COVID-1; and their spouses and children under 21
-  EB-5 investor immigrants
-  Children or prospective adoptees of U.S. citizens
-  Members of U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
-  Other individuals whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives or other national interests

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Non-Immigrants (F-1, H-1B, L-1,TN, O, R, etc.)
Although non-immigrants are not covered in this order, Section 6 of the Proclamation specifically directs the Secretaries of DOL, DOS and DHS to review all nonimmigrant visa programs within 30 days and make recommendation as to what measures are needed to stimulate the U.S. economy.  Hence, it is very possible that non-immigrants will be targeted in future executive orders.  Individuals who are eligible to file their visa applications - including H-1B CAP cases - should do so immediately.  Individuals seeking to extend their H-1B or L-1 visa status should also submit their applications as soon as possible.

What Should Overseas Visa Applicants Do?
Overseas visa applicants must wait until the visa ban is over.  For visa applicants who have already been issued visas, they should contact the American Consulate in their area to find out their options.  If an applicant's immigrant visa has expired, he or she should contact the Consulate to find out how to obtain an extension.  Further, it is important for visa applicants to maintain their eligibility for their visa classification. For example, dependent children of immigrant visa applicants will lose eligibility if they are married.

As many U.S. embassies and consulates are not conducting business on account of COVID-19, the actual impact of this Executive Order may not be as great as it intends to be.  However, future proclamations or orders of Trump may seek to cover more categories of people including those who are present inside the U.S. Hence, foreign nationals should take steps to prepare for the worse and come up with contingency plans. In immigration law, timing is always critical. Some options would become unattainable if one runs out of time.

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