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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Monday, June 22, 2020

Trump's Visa Ban Expanded to Cover H-1B, J-1, L-1 Visas Until December 31, 2020

As predicted, the White House released another proclamation by President Trump expanding the existing immigration ban imposed by Trump on April 22, 2020.  The initial ban restricted immigrants from entering the US for 60 days starting April 23, 2020.  Today's proclamation expanded the duration of the initial ban until December 31, 2020, effective June 24, 2020.  It means that nobody abroad can immigrate into the US for the rest of 2020. 

The new executive order - Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak - also added non-immigrant visas including H-1B, H-4, H-2B,  L-1A, L-1B, L-2, J-1 and  J-2 to the banned list. There are limited exceptions to the visa ban including:

- Individuals who are lawful permanent residents
- Spouses and children of US citizens
- Those who can provide temporary services essential to the US food chain supply
- Other individuals whose entry will benefit the national interest of the US

It is important to note that the ban does not apply to non-immigrant workers who are present in the US.  For examples, if you are in H-1B status now, you may extend your status within the US.  Or if you are a multinational company manager present in the US on a valid visitor visa, you should be allowed to file a petition to change to L-1A status. But once you leave the US, you would not be able to obtain a visa to return.

The ban also does not apply to individuals who already have valid US visas or other legitimate travel documents such as advance parole travel documents and transportation letters as of the effective date of June 24, 2020.  Hence, if you are outside of the US now but possess a valid US visa, you should be able to return to the US.  

The language of the ban does not cover other non-immigrant visas such as F-1/ M-1, O-1, TN, R-1, E-1, E-2, E-3, etc.  Hence, foreign nationals should still be able to apply for these visas from abroad. If you have graduated from an academic program in F-1 status, you are still eligible to apply for employment authorization to gain work experience under the OPT and STEM OPT programs.  

Although the ban will expire on December 31, 2020, it can be extended again should the US Government determines that entry of foreign workers will be detrimental to the US labor market.  

Further, the proclamation also has built-in measures for the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to promulgate new regulations to further limit the H-1B program and the EB-2 and EB-3 immigrant visa programs.  The EB-2 Visa Program is used mostly by foreigners with advanced degrees or exceptional ability.  The EB-3 Visa Program is used by foreign professionals with bachelor's degrees or at least two years of work experience.  The proclamation also asks the Secretary of Labor to initiate investigations in regarding to any violations of the H-1B Visa Program. 

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