Special Immigration Alert: President Trump Temporarily Suspends Immigration; Canada Extends Non-Essential Travel Ban
President Trump Signs Executive Order to “Temporarily Suspend Immigration into the United States”
On April 20, 2020, President Trump tweeted, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” The vague tweet triggered many questions and concerns as to the scope of the immigration suspension and the impact it would have on many foreign nationals and their respective U.S. employers.
On the afternoon of April 22, 2020, President Trump officially signed and released the executive order (“EO”) to the public. The EO will take effect at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on April 23, 2020, and will be valid for up to 60 days thereafter.
The EO is narrow in scope as it applies only to foreign nationals who plan to apply for U.S. permanent resident status (i.e., a green card) at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate from outside the United States in the next 60 days. As such, the EO will have minimal impact on current immigration visa processing. The U.S. Department of State had previously temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates since March 20, 2020, due to COVID-19, except for emergency situations or those applications deemed essential. Thus, foreign nationals eligible to apply for permanent resident status at U.S. Embassies and Consulates were already affected by the visa service suspension and will face no further negative impact by the EO.
The EO does not apply to:
foreign nationals who are seeking to enter the United States as medical personnel; to perform medical research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19, or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19, along with their spouses and minor children; or
foreign nationals who are the spouses and children of U.S. citizens, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, individuals designated by law enforcement, prospective foreign adoptees of U.S. citizens, and EB-5 investor visa applicants.
Moreover, the EO does not have an immediate impact on foreign nationals already in the United States. Further, the EO does not apply to any other U.S. immigration or application process. Therefore, the following categories are not affected by this EO:
any pending or to-be-filed I-485 Adjustment of Status applications for those foreign nationals who are applying for or have applied for their green cards while physically present in the United States;
those already having U.S. permanent residency (i.e., green card holders); and
those having nonimmigrant statuses who are applying for extensions, changes, or amendments of their nonimmigrant statuses, such as F-1 (including those having F-1 OPT and STEM OPT EAD work authorization), J-1, H-1B, TN, L-1, E-1/2/3, O-1, and H-1B1, as well as their family derivatives holding related statuses in F-2, J-2, E, H-4, L-2, TD, or O-3.
The EO leaves room for further extension or modification, should the President deem it necessary. Specifically, the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, are ordered to review nonimmigrant programs (those mentioned above in the last bullet point) and recommend to the President other appropriate measures to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure “the prioritization, hiring and employment” of U.S. workers.
In sum, for the next 60 days, foreign nationals are stopped from receiving U.S. permanent residence visa entry from outside the United States. However, the President may extend or modify the order based on agency recommendations. We will continue to monitor the status of the EO over the coming weeks.
Canada Extends Ban on Non-Essential Travel Between the United States and Canada Until May 21
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has extended the COVID-19-related closure of the U.S.-Canada border for non-essential travel to May 21, 2020. The ban, which began on March 21, 2020, permits only business- or trade-related travel between the two countries.