While COVID 19 Pandemic and its subsequent startling consequences continue to challenge almost all well-settled economic, societal and governmental practices around the world, national governments are struggling to respond to the global crisis by exerting extraordinary remedies concomitantly. Recently, in this vein, another one came from President Trump regarding immigration to the US. He declared from his Twitter account that he temporarily suspended inbound immigration with an executive order.
“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 above tweet on April 21 reverberates the very rationale behind the executive order issued on April 22, which considerably restricts entering the US in immigrant visa status. The executive order reiterates the general stance of Trump administration regarding the alleged detriments of immigrants to the US labor force and cites the susceptibility of historically disadvantaged groups, especially in economic crises. Likewise, the inadequacy of labor certificates in ensuring the protection of disadvantaged Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs constitutes the other major pillar of the justification part of the order.
Scope & Exclusions
According to the above mentioned executive order, effective on April 23, the entry of aliens to the US as immigrants who:
- are not present in the US as of the date of 04.23.2020
- do not possess a valid immigrant visa on April 23
- do not possess a valid official travel document other than a visa(e.g., a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document)
is suspended and restricted.
On the other hand, a relatively considerable amount of groups of individuals has been exempted from these suspensions and limitations. That being said:
- Lawful permanent residents aka green card holders
- Aliens who are willing to enter the US on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combatting, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak; and their dependents
- Aliens who apply for EB5 Investor Visa
- Spouses of the US Citizens
- Minor Children of US Citizens
- Aliens whose entry to the US is specified as essential to further law enforcement objectives by certain administrative authorities
- Any member of the United States Armed Forces and his/her dependents
- Those aliens whose entry to the US is regarded as being in the National Interest by certain administrative bodies.
- Proper asylum seekers and refugees who fall under the protection of Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Regarding the implementation of these limitations, the executive order points at the US Consulars, the Secretary of the State, and the Secretary of Homeland Security and their designees as the authorities to exert discretion on whether an individual qualify for the exceptions mentioned above. In addition, for those who attempt to avoid and bypass these limitations through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry, the executive order apparently mentions removal sanction by DHS.
- Regulations, limitations, implementations, and sanctions in this presidential executive order would not affect aliens outside the US who seek to apply for regular non-immigrant visa statuses such as F, L, E O, H, M, J groups. However, one interesting detail within the regulatory document stipulates that both the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security would review these visa programs with respect to the US economy, hiring, and employment within 30 days of April 23,.Therefore one could expect further regulations on non-immigrant visas soon.
- USCIS will continue to process petitions for aliens (e.g. I-90, I-765, I-140, I-130) who are physically present or not present in the US.
- USCIS will also continue to process petitions of those who are in the US and are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (Green Card) via Adjustment of Status.
- The precautions and regulations specified in the executive order will expire in 60 days from the effective date. However, given the continuation of the severe circumstances around COVID-19 crisis, one could expect an extension and or modification.