While immigration suspensions seemed to be a temporary salve against the COVID-19 outbreak, much longer suspensions became effective with President Trump’s newest proclamation issued on June 22, 2020.
The entry of certain employment-based nonimmigrants seeking admission in the U.S. has been halted. These nonimmigrant workers include H-1B, H-2B, J and L visa holders and their dependents. The proclamation applies to these individuals if they are outside the U.S. on the effective date of the proclamation, do not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date, and do not have an official travel document other than a visa, such as advance parole valid on the effective date.
Certain exemptions are in place for persons whose entry is deemed of “national interest” as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees. From experience, this standard is extremely high and discretionary.
The June 22, 2020 proclamation also extends a previous proclamation issued by the President on April 22, 2020, which suspended the entry of certain immigrants into the U.S. for 60 days. The extension is now limiting entry of these intending immigrants through December 31, 2020 with the chance of further extensions on the suspension. These individuals include those seeking to enter the U.S. as an immigrant who:
- Are outside the U.S. on the effective date of the proclamation;
- Do not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
- Do not have a valid official travel document, such as advance parole, on the effective date.
Some of the following categories of individuals are exempted from the proclamation:
- Lawful permanent residents (LPR)
- Individuals, and their spouses or children, seeking to enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare profession, to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19
- Individuals applying for a visa to enter the U.S. pursuant to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program
- Spouses of U.S. citizens
- Children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21 years
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
- Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretaries of State and the Department of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.
An important carve-out exemption exists in the June 22, 2020 proclamation for children or child relatives who could be separated from their families if they age out while the suspension an immigrants’ entry is in effect.
The proclamation requires review by the Secretary of Homeland Security 30 days from the effective date of the proclamation and every 60 days after to determine if any modification of the proclamation is needed. U.S. embassies abroad remain closed to the public or have limited access pending the pandemic.