President Trump has issued a proclamation suspending the entry of H-1B, L-1, H-2B and J-1 non-immigrants and their dependants from 12.01am EDT on June 24 until December 31, 2020. There will be limited exceptions and it remains to be seen whether the suspension will be extended from December 31 or to other immigration categories. Further to this, the proclamation directs immigration agencies to further restrict the criteria for H-1B applicants and introduce tougher standards for certain employment-based permanent residence categories.
What has changed?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advised that it is implementing the entry restrictions in a bid to protect the US work force from the increasing unemployment resulting from COVID-19. The proclamation aims to do this in two steps.
Firstly, under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the proclamation suspends the issuance of H-1B, H-2B, L and certain J non-immigrant visas until December 31, 2020. The suspension will not apply to; foreign workers already in the US holding existing valid visas or foreign nationals already in possession of visas advance parole or other U.S. travel document even if they are outside of the US at the time of the proclamation’s effective date. Nor, will it apply to those holding lawful permanent residency, spouses or children of US citizens, or those whose entry will provide temporary labor or services essential to the US food supply chain or is considered in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.
Secondly, the DHS is also directed to work towards a transition to a merit-based immigration system which will prohibit companies from replacing US citizen employees with foreign nationals. Further to this, they are working with United States Government partners to ensure enhanced medical screening procedures are in place for foreign workers in the event that travel suspensions are lifted.
Who is affected?
The proclamation will primarily affect those applying for H-1B, H-2B, J-1 and L-1 visas, and their dependants. These individuals will be restricted from being issued visas until after December 31, 2020, unless an exception as mentioned above applies.
Those who already hold a valid H-1B, H-2B, J-1 or L-1 visa should be permitted to seek entry to the US during the visa validity period.
For further information on the current entry restrictions for foreign nationals into the United States of America, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team at firstname.lastname@example.org.