On June 22nd, President Trump signed an executive order suspending visa applications for work and other visas. The order was signed, ostensibly, to protect American workers from competition from increased competition from foreign workers due to the impact of the coronavirus on the U.S. economy. The order affects hundreds of thousands of applicants and future applicants. The order states that it will be in effect until the end of the year.
What Visas Are Affected?
The following visas are suspended or substantially limited:
- J visas, and
- L visas.
The order also suspends the immigration of family members and spouse who were slated to join their significant other who is already present in the U.S. The order expressly suspends immigrants who are participating as interns, trainees, au pairs, camp counselors, and teachers.
Exclusions to the Order
The order excludes the following classifications. People who are already lawful permanent residents are not affected. Spouses of and children of U.S. citizens are not affected. Workers who are providing temporary labor or are working in the food supply system (i.e., workers on temporary work visas for farms). Finally, any other worker whose entry is in the “national interest.” For practical purposes, an entry is in the “national interest” if the worker is conducting coronavirus-related research.
What is the impact?
The impact of the order is substantial. Government officials estimate that the order will affect approximately 525,000 foreign workers. Numerous interest groups have spoken out against the order. The Chamber of Commerce said it amounted to a “not welcome” sign for critical workers who will be needed to help the U.S. recover from the effects of the pandemic. Corporations with global operations are prohibited from temporarily assigning executives for limited stints in the U.S. Notably, the order did not include an exemption for medical workers, such as doctors and nurses. The June 22nd order, in effect, extends the April 60-day green card suspension order to all worker visas.
The order was justified on the grounds that the government needed to protect American workers from foreign competition due to coronavirus-related impacts on the economy. However, many experts argued that limiting access for foreign talent (including medical workers) will exacerbate the effects of the pandemic. Moreover, it disadvantages the U.S. further because the foreign talent that might have immigrated here before may select another country and bring their knowledge and research there.