New Restrictions on Immigration and Business Visas to the US

On April 22, 2020 President Trump signed an Executive Order limiting immigration to the US for the next sixty days, arguing it was in response to the Covid19 virus pandemic.  That order was updated on June 22, 2020, with new restrictions that will last through the end of the year. The new restrictions on immigration continue the Trump Administration’s tightening of access to US shores.

Our law office specializes in immigration and visas to the United States. In this article, attorney James Cohen will clarify what these new restrictions on immigration to the US mean for US employers and foreign workers.

Which visa types are impacted by the new restrictions ?

The biggest changes in the new Presidential proclamation is the limitation on non-immigrant work visas. The following types of visas are barred through the end of the year: H-1B, H-2, L, and  most J visas. Both the H-1B (professional) visa and the L (intra employee transfer) visa are heavily relied upon by US businesses.

Sadly, the H-1B program already limits the number of annually available visas . Businesses are required to apply for these visas in March; and only about twenty-five percent of the applications succeed in receiving visas because of the limitations on their numbers. Now, the “winners” of these visas must wait until the end of the year to actually receive them. The same is true for L visas. Exceptions to the above are for health care workers, those involved in the food supply chain and those deemed to be in the national interest of the US.

Which visa types are unaffected ?

The good news, if there is any, is that the bar does not apply to E (investor/trade), F (student), O (extraordinary ability) or R (religious) visas. The E-2 investment visa can often substitute for some of the other visas if the applicant is interested in investing and working in a business in the US. An O visa can substitute for an L visa for those who are managers or executives. In addition, the bar does not apply to those presently in the US who are changing status.

Immigration visa restrictions remain largely unchanged

With respect to immigrant visas, very few changes were made to the earlier decree, except to extend the limitations to the end of the year. Any potential immigrant already in the United States applying for a green card within the country still will be able to do so. Thus, spouses and children of US citizens and green card holders currently residing in the US and applying for a green card are exempt from the new restrictions. The same is true for alien workers in the US who also are applying for a green card.

The new order continues the previously established limitation on immigrant visas (green cards) issued in US embassies around the world. For those to whom the restrictions apply it means no new immigrant visas will be issued in US embassies through the end of the year. However, again, there are many exceptions. The following groups of people are exempt from the changes:

  1. Spouses and minor children of US citizens.
  2. Those who already have valid immigrant visas.
  3. Current green card holders.
  4. Medical personnel.
  5. EB-5 investors.
  6. US military personnel and their families.
  7. Certain special immigrant visas.
  8. Anyone determined to be in the national interest of the United States.
  9. Those involved in food supply chains.

Restrictions on immigration apply to certain family members

Then, to whom do the restrictions apply? Family members of US citizens, such as adult children, parents and siblings, will not be eligible to receive an immigrant visa until the end of the year. In addition, no family members of green card holders similarly will be eligible. Again, if the above family members reside in the United States and apply for a green card within, then the restrictions do not apply. In addition, those living abroad who are approved for employment based immigration now must wait until the beginning of next year to receive those visas.

Finally, those chosen to receive a green card through the diversity visa program (visa lottery) also will not be able to obtain an immigrant visa. This category is possibly the most seriously affected; according to the program’s law, the chosen winners of the 2020 lottery program must have a valid immigrant visa by September 30, 2020. Since they will be unable to obtain the immigrant visa before the end of the year, sadly, they will lose their eligibility to obtain one.

Contact us for aid and legal advice

The changes make the immigration and visa process to the United States more complicated. Thus, it is highly recommended to contact an attorney before proceeding with any plans to move or work in the US. Schedule a consultation with a US immigration lawyer at Cohen Brosh’s office.
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