Immigrants Face New Challenges with New Work Visa Suspensions

Unemployment Stemming from COVID-19 Prompts New Restrictions

On June 22, 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive order entitled “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak.” As the name might suggest, the order enacts a new round of restrictions and suspensions focused on the issuance of work visas in several categories, with the goal being to curb new foreign workers entering the United States. The Trump administration claims this move will give American citizens more work opportunities in a labor market damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visa categories impacted by the new suspension include:

  • H-1B visas for college-educated, skilled workers
  • H-2B for seasonal workers
  • L visas for intracompany transfers
  • J visas for cultural exchange programs

All of the above visa categories are suspended through December 31, 2020. It is possible the Trump administration could issue another executive order to extend the suspension past that date, though the results of the forthcoming November presidential election could impact further restrictions. The June 22 executive order also extended an April 22, 2020 order’s immigration restrictions.

The new order has generated a great deal of anxiety and panic among immigrants throughout the United States. Many who are currently on work visas, including those in the affected categories, worry about their occupational future in the country.

Many political observers believe President Trump is attempting to galvanize his anti-immigration base through this and similarly restrictive executive orders, regardless of the practicality or consequences they confer. President Trump ignited swaths of voters with his anti-immigration rhetoric in the leadup to the 2016 presidential election, and doing so again, using the power of the Federal Branch, could increase the likelihood of his reelection in November.

Immigration advocates and business industry leaders both expressed disappointment and frustration at the development, as the restriction of foreign worker visas is not conducive to the long-term economic health of the country. This sort of behavior, even if temporary or eventually reversed, can dissuade workers from pursuing employment in the United States in the future, potentially stifling innovation and leaving critical shortfalls in specialized fields other Americans cannot fill. Silicon Valley employs thousands of skilled foreign workers each year and has expressed concern they will not be able to fill all positions exclusively with American citizens.

The executive order chiefly restricts entry into the United States for visa holders currently abroad. If you hold an impacted visa but are already inside the country, you are safe to remain until your visa expires. Additionally, green card holders, lawful permanent residents, and those with non-immigrant visas can still enter the country.

However, if you currently hold an H-1B, H-2B, L, or J work visa and are presently outside the United States, this order may impact your ability to reenter the country. The precise details and nuances of the restrictions between suspended visa categories vary, so any restrictions on reentry may need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Furthermore, it is no longer possible to apply for, renew, or request change of status for any of the restricted work visa categories until the suspension ends. This means that any immigrant holding a work visa, many of which have terms of 1 year or less, will face their visa expiring before the suspension concludes. This could subject them to removal proceedings, even if they have built careers in the United States over a period of many years.

Get the Help of an Experienced Immigration Attorney

We understand that these new immigration restrictions can be confusing and even frightening, especially if they threaten the livelihood you have worked to build in this country. Our immigration lawyer at The Law Office of Yifei He, PLLC is an immigrant himself and empathizes with the trials all immigrants experience as they fight to live and work in the United States. Our team is known for our empathetic, affordable, and multilingual legal services, and we are dedicated to helping you fight for your future in this country.

If you have one of the work visas recently suspended by the Trump administration, especially if you are presently located outside the country, we encourage you to dial (917) 451-5173 or contact us online. We can review the details of your situation and work to achieve a favorable outcome.

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