Client Advisory: Executive Order Restricting Certain Work Visas

Citing economic concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump extended a freeze on green cards issued outside the U.S. to the end of the year and expanded the Executive Order to suspend the entry of foreign nationals on certain employment-based nonimmigrant visas, including H-1B, L-1 and J-1. Please note that the new restrictions do not apply to foreign nationals already present in the U.S.

Specifically, the Proclamation suspends the issuance of visas for those seeking entry pursuant to the following:

  • H-1B visa and any foreign national dependents;
  • H-2B visa and any foreign national dependents;
  • J visa as an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, summer work travel participant, and any foreign national dependents; and
  • L visa and any foreign national dependents.

These Executive Order restrictions will only apply to any individuals mentioned above if they:

  • Are outside the U.S. on the effective date of the Proclamation (12:01 am on June 24, 2020);
  • Do not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of the Proclamation, and
  • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa (e.g. transportation letter, advance parole document), valid on the effective date of the Proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits them to travel to the U.S. to seek entry or admission.

The Proclamation specifically does not apply to the following individuals:

  • Legal permanent residents (“green card holders”) of the U.S.;
  • Spouses or children under the age of 21 of U.S. Citizens;
  • Individuals seeking entry to provide temporary labor essential to the U.S. food supply chain; and
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The Proclamation gives some guidance as to what would be covered under the “national interest” exemption, including individuals who are critical to national security, are involved in the provision to medical care to hospitalized COVID-19 patients, are involved with medical research to help the U.S. combat COVID-19, and are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the U.S. This executive action gives consular officers the discretion to determine whether or not an individual applying for a visa is included in one of these exempted categories.

FordMurray recommends that foreign nationals holding nonimmigrant work visas in the categories referenced above do not depart the US until the Executive Order is withdrawn or expires (currently December 31, 2020).  We know that this can be burdensome for individuals and families, but given the current political climate and the continuing challenges caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, we strongly recommend remaining in the US to safeguard the immigration status and work authorization of visas holders.

FordMurray will continue to share updates on new developments in the law as they emerge.