President Trump has issued a new executive order that prohibits visa issuance for certain classes of employment visas. The affected classes are H-1B, some categories of J-1, and L-1. The ban also includes dependent family members who could accompany the spouse with the primary visa classification, such as a spouse and unmarried minor children. The order also extends the ban on issuing green card visas, called immigrant visas, at the US consulates, with some exceptions for immediate family members and healthcare workers. The ban would be in place until the end of the year.
At this point, the order is largely symbolic. There are no visas being issued at the moment as operations are limited at US consulates due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We also fully expect that the order will be litigated as the President continues to test the limits of his executive power as it relates to immigration.
The order also is fairly narrow in scope. People in the US in H, J and L status are not affected by this order. A visa is an entry document placed in a person’s passport to come to the US and seek admission. Visas are issued only in US consulates throughout the world and cannot be applied for or obtained in the US. Someone who is in the US already who has or seeks to change to one of these statuses is not affected.
To file for H and L visas for employees, a sponsoring company must have an approved petition from USCIS first. This order does not affect an employer’s ability to seek a petition for someone they wish to employ in any way.
We discourage anyone in H, J or L status from travelling outside the US while we wait for the dust to settle on this new attempt to limit legal immigration. We encourage those who wish to do so to continue filing H and L visa petitions with USCIS, and changes of status for potential employees physically in the US and in legal status, as these are not affected by the ban.
As I have heard myself say many times this year, this too shall pass. Assuming it survives court review, the order is set to expire in December 2020. The presidential election in November will be in part determined by the response of the citizens of the US to this and other attempts to restrict legal immigration, as well as other policies, orders and approaches implemented by President Trump during his term.