On April 22, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of any individual seeking to enter the United States as an immigrant who:
- Is outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation; and
- Does not have a valid immigrant visa as of April 23, 2020; and
- Does not have a valid official travel document as of April 23, 2020, or issued on any date thereafter; and
- The proclamation goes into effect at 11:59 pm (ET) on April 23, 2020, for at least 60 days. It can be extended and modified.
The following categories are exempt from the proclamation:
- Lawful permanent residents (green card holders);
- Health care professionals, seeking to enter the country on an immigrant visa to practice their healthcare profession in the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, other healthcare professional, medical researcher or other work to combat COVID-19. These professionals may also bring their spouses and children to immigrate with them;
- Individuals applying for a visa to enter the U.S. pursuant to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program;
- Spouses and children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens, including prospective adoptees on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa;
- Individuals who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives (as determined by Department of Human Services and Department of State);
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children;
- Afghan and Iraqi nationals who were translators/interpreters or employed by the U.S. government and their spouses or children seeking entry pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa; and
- Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by Department of Human Services and Department of State).
Some of these exemptions represent policy concerns (such as the exemption allowing health care providers to immigrate and bring their families). Other exceptions to an executive ban on incoming foreign nationals which evolved during the Hawaii v. Trump litigation which contested Trump’s initial travel ban (such as the exceptions for Afghan and Iraqi nationals). Consistent with the evolution of the initial Trump ban until revisions were ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, the current Executive ban does not bar asylum seekers.
The Proclamation requires a review of temporary visa programs within 30 days and recommendations to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure “the prioritization, hiring and employment” of U.S. workers.
NON-IMMIGRANTS MAY STILL OBTAIN VISAS TO WORK IN THE US
The stated purpose of the current Executive Proclamation is to preserve jobs for US citizens and existing long term permanent residents. However, the Executive Proclamation does not bar those who seek visa’s to work in the United States but not necessarily to become long term permanent residents. It does not for instance, bar H1B applicants. Nor does it bar seasonal agricultural workers.
OTHER COVID-9 OBSTACLES TO TRAVEL AND STAYS IN THE US
The official proclamation is not the only current obstacle to international travel to or from the U.S. The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico are closed for non-essential travel until at least May 20, 2020. With some exceptions, the entry of individuals who were present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the U.K., and Ireland, during the 14-day period before their attempted entry into the United States has also been suspended. Routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consular posts were suspended March 20, 2020. U.S. embassies and consulates only continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services as resources allow.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has, in recent years, closed most of its overseas offices. It has temporarily suspended in-person services within the United States through at least May 3, 2020, but continues to accept and process applications and petitions, including applications requesting an extension or change of status. USCIS has decided not to toll the time for the filing of immigration benefits and the expiration dates for foreign nationals to file applications, or to respond to requests for further information in response to USCIS’s requests for further information. USCIS has also declined to provide an automatic grant of deferred action for the duration of the national emergency for individuals whose status has expired and cannot be extended or changed.