Yesterday, President Trump signed a proclamation blocking foreign workers from entering the US on certain visas, including the popular H-1B visa for skilled workers, for the remainder of the year. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration has restricted legal immigration. The administration claims this latest move is necessary to protect Americans due to high unemployment levels stemming from the pandemic. It is estimated to affect hundreds of thousands of people who planned to come to the US legally.
The proclamation goes into effect at 12:01 am ET June 24, 2020 and will prevent foreigners from coming to the US through a variety of visa categories:
- H-1B visa, crucial for employers in STEM fields, and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them,
- H-2B visa, which provide temporary workers in nonagricultural industries, and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them,
- J visa, if the foreign national is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them, and
- L visa, which allow companies to transfer employees working overseas to the US offices, and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them.
The proclamation will only apply to individuals identified above if they are:
- outside the US on the proclamation's effective date,
- do not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the proclamation's effective date, and
- do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation, boarding foil, or advance parole document), valid on the proclamation's effective date or issued after the proclamation's effective date permitting the individual's admission to the US.
The proclamation does not apply to:
- lawful permanent residents,
- the spouse or children of a US citizen,
- any individual seeking entry to provide temporary labor essential to the US food supply chain,
- asylum seekers, or
- any individual whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.
The proclamation directs the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security to determine standards in order to determine who may be covered under the “national interest” exemption, including individuals who:
- are critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the US,
- are medical care providers to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized,
- are involved in medical research at US facilities to help the US fight COVID-19,
- are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the US, or
- are children who would age out of eligibility for a visa because of this proclamation or Proclamation 10014.
The proclamation gives consular officers discretion to determine if an individual fits within one of these exempted categories.
What does this all mean?
Because many US consulates remain closed due to the pandemic, the proclamation may not immediately affect the number of foreign nationals who can enter the US legally. The closures have caused a staggering drop in visa issuances recently, per the US State Departments monthly visa issuance data.
Having already temporarily barred the issuance of new green cards for 60 days, the administration announced the ban on new green cards will extend through the end of the year. The administration claims these moves will create 525,000 jobs for Americans. However, companies use foreign workers to fill positions when they cannot find American workers with the required skills and experience because hiring foreign workers is an expensive and time-consuming process for companies to undertake. This is particularly true in STEM fields which suffer from labor shortages. Filling these positions drives economic growth and creates jobs for American workers. As a result, this proclamation will create uncertainty for employers facing gaps in their workforce which will affect the Americans they employ.
“This order is economically baseless. It will hurt the recovery and U.S. workers. Foreign workers create demand for other better jobs for U.S. workers elsewhere in the economy. Restricting migration will not lower unemployment, but it will harm American businesses — that are struggling to make it through this period — who employ both Americans and immigrants.”