President Suspends Temporary Entry of Certain Nonimmigrants Due to COVID-19 Related Unemployment Rates

Written by Jaclyn D. Granet and Janice Luo

After several days of extensive media coverage and speculation, on June 22, 2020, President Trump issued a new immigration-related proclamation, the full text of which is available here. Per the administration, this new proclamation was released in response to the growing American unemployment rate due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The most notable order in this proclamation is the temporary suspension of entry for certain nonimmigrants as outlined below:

  • Travel into the United States of any foreign national seeking to enter in H-1B, H-2B, J, or L classification (as well as any foreign national accompanying or following to join such individual) is suspended.
    • The J visa category suspension is limited to certain programs only. The suspension does not apply to Physician, Short-Term Scholar, Professor & Research Scholar, Specialist, Secondary School Student, and College & University Student programs.
  • The proclamation narrows its focus by stating that the suspension of entry applies only to foreign nationals who are 1) outside the United States, 2) do not have a nonimmigrant visa stamp as of June 24, 2020, and 3) do not have an official travel document other than a visa.
  • Further, the suspension of entry to the United States does not apply to 1) Lawful Permanent Residents, 2) foreign nationals who are the spouse or child of a United States citizen, 3) foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain, and 4) foreign nationals whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined in the discretion of the U.S. Government.
  • Additional important points outlined in this proclamation, include, but are not limited to:
    • The proclamation is effective as of 12:01 a.m. ET on June 24, 2020.
    • The proclamation is effective until December 31, 2020 and may be continued as necessary. Modifications may be recommended as is deemed necessary.
    • The proclamation (for now) has no impact on numerous nonimmigrant categories, including, but not limited to, I, TN, O, E, F, M, R, etc.
    • The proclamation does not prohibit employers from filing Form I-129 nonimmigrant petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, including such petitions to change the status of a foreign national already in the United States, even to H-1B, H-2B, J, or L classification.
    • Previously issued Proclamation 10014 (suspension of entry for certain immigrants) is to remain in place through December 31, 2020. Modifications may be recommended as is deemed necessary. This section of the proclamation takes effect immediately.

Other Current Immigration-Related Travel/Visa Issues, include, but are not limited to:

  • The worldwide closure of all U.S. embassies/consulates for visa processing has been in place for several months and still remains in effect for both immigrants (permanent residents/green cards) and nonimmigrants (temporary visas).
  • The ban on travel for individuals physically present in Brazil, China, Iran, the Schengen nations of Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland within the fourteen (14) days preceding intended date of arrival to the United States, remains in effect.
  • The restriction on entry across the Mexican and Canadian land borders is still in effect.

In some ways, this proclamation does little to change suspensions and restrictions already in place. Indeed, with all embassies/consulates already closed, no new visa stamps are currently being issued. Thus, individuals outside the United States seeking to obtain an H-1B, H-2B, J, or L visa stamp for entry were already unable to do so because of these current suspensions and restrictions. Effectively, this proclamation only expands such suspensions through the end of 2020. It is important to note, however, the previous issuance of such a visa stamp does not exempt a foreign national from restrictions in this proclamation. For example, if a foreign national is currently in the United States in H-1B status and departs and/or remains outside the United States after the expiration of his or her visa stamp, that foreign national may be unable to obtain a new H-1B visa stamp, required for re-entry to the United States until January 2021, at the earliest. In any event, before any foreign national makes plans to depart or enter the United States, it is vital that he or she (or his/her employer) contact counsel to determine if he or she is subject to any such restrictions or suspensions. Lastly, this Client Alert and the above-outlined proclamation is valid as of today, June 22, 2020. Given the ever-evolving COVID-19 global pandemic, such restrictions and suspensions are subject to change and/or expansion at any time.

Please contact our Immigration Department if you have any questions.

Update: please note, on June 29, 2020, President Trump issued an amendment to this proclamation. The amendment was issued to clarify who is included in the proclamation’s “valid visa” exemption. In the initial proclamation, the language of this exemption suggested that an individual in possession of any type of nonimmigrant visa (i.e. B, F, O, etc.) on June 24, 2020 would be exempt from the proclamation. The amendment now states that the individuals who may be exempted from this proclamation are only those who had an H-1B, H-2B, L-2, J (certain categories only), and related dependent visas on June 24, 2020. For example, if you had an F visa on June 24, 2020, you are still subject to this proclamation and therefore unable to obtain an H-1B visa stamp through at least December 31, 2020. Conversely, if you had an H-1B visa on June 24, 2020, you may be exempted from the proclamation and able to obtain a new H-1B visa before the end of the year, once the consulates re-open.

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