Witten by Bita Lak
On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending the entry of immigrants whose presence would be detrimental to the interests of the United States for an initial period of 60 days. This suspension may be extended depending on the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the high rate of unemployment during the pandemic and ongoing economic uncertainty, President Trump’s reasoning provided in the order is to protect American jobs. On this basis, the issuance of immigrant visas for certain family-based cases and employment-based cases are suspended as of April 23, 2020. This will likely affect many families who have been waiting for years to reunite with their loved ones.
Previously, President Trump signed orders to ban most immigration for citizens of certain countries, such as Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Nigeria, etc. This new order creates a ban on immigration for citizens of all countries. The suspension includes but is not limited to, the following aliens: applicants who are outside of the U.S. on the effective date of the proclamation; those that do not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date of the order; and those that do not have a valid travel document other than a visa on the effective date of this order. Accordingly, a non-citizen who already obtained their immigrant visa on the date of this order may still enter the United States.
The order does not include the following applicants: any U.S. lawful permanent resident; applicants applying through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program; spouse of a U.S. citizen; child of a U.S. citizen under the age of 21; non-citizens seeking to enter the U.S. with an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professionals/worker; and non-citizens whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State or Secretary of Homeland Security. One of the immigrant-visa categories that may be considered as in “national interest” is the EB-2/National Interest Waiver. Although the order did not explicitly name “EB2/NIW” to be considered as a national interest category, it may be the case that a successful argument can be made to include this category as an exception from the order. Under the EB-2/NIW category, an applicant is required to show that his or her entrance would benefit the national interest of the United States. The applicant does not need to have a job offer from a qualifying employer in the U.S. This order also does not put any limitations in place for non-immigrant visas such as F-1 visas or H-1B visas.
It seems that this is another attempt by President Trump’s administration to limit immigration to the United States following his previous orders that include a travel ban on immigration for several Muslim-majority countries, the reduction in the numbers of refugees accepted to the United States, along with his vow to build an expanded wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. This pandemic has given President Trump further opportunity to invoke emergency authority to limit the entrance of immigrants into the United States.
Many immigrants will be affected by the order, including those who may have been waiting for more than a decade to enter as a brother or sister of U.S. citizens, and spouses of green-card holders. Yet, there currently are no written guidelines for U.S. Consulates on the issuance of visas for immigrant visa applicants such as EB-2/NIW, EB-5, or family-based cases who have been waiting for more than one year in U.S. Consulates for visa decisions or decisions relating to visa issuance for nurses, physicians, or healthcare professionals/workers. The citizens of some countries, such as Iran, still must deal with the ongoing travel ban restrictions in addition to the new suspension for entering the United States under immigrant visas.
If you or any of your family members are facing immigration issues or have any questions in this regard, please contact experienced immigration lawyers, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, P.C., to assist you with this matter.