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U.S. Immigration Update – June 24, 2020

Client Update / Jun 25, 2020

As you may have heard, on June 22, 2020 President Trump issued a Proclamation placing new limitations on certain U.S. non-immigrant visas. This proclamation becomes effective on June 24, 2020 and will expire December 31, 2020.

The proclamation only affects:

  • certain visa categories: H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 visas, and
  • only applies to individuals who are outside the United States on June 24, 2020, and
  • who do not have visa stamp in their passport issued prior to June 24, 2020.

Additionally, this proclamation extends the previous Proclamation of April 22, 2020, which restricts the issuance of new immigrant visas by consulates to those for those outside of the U.S.

Please note that all this information is also subject to the restrictions created by 1) the continued closure of US consulates globally due to COVID-19 and 2) travel restrictions from certain countries due to COVID-19.

The Proclamation also contains exceptions to these restrictions, for example if the individual’s work is considered to be in the national interest, involves medical care or research related to COVID-19, or relates to the national food supply chain.

BOTTOM LINE:

  • The Proclamation does not affect any visa holders currently in the United States in valid status or with extensions pending.
  • It does not affect individuals with valid H-1B, H-2B L-1 or J-1 visas who are outside the US and need to re-enter the country on those visas.
  • It suspends issuance of new, nonimmigrant visas to those who meet the three above-stated criteria, until December 31, 2020.

REMINDER: If you are in the US in valid status and need to travel for any reason, please do not make plans before consulting with an immigration lawyer.


FAQ

Q: Does this affect all visa categories?

A: No, it only affects H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 visas, and their accompanying family members. More specifically, the J-1 programs that are affected are Intern, Trainee, Teacher and camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel programs.

My petition was approved by USCIS but I am outside the United States. Can I enter?

Unfortunately, even with an approved petition you will not be able to obtain a visa stamp to enter the US. The proclamation outlines a few exceptions, including those whose work benefits the national interest and those seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain.

I have a valid visa stamp for one of the affected categories. Can I travel and re-enter the US?

Yes, you can continue to use your valid visa stamp. This is true even for individuals in the affected visa categories. However, all visa holders are still subject to travel bans from certain Covid-affected countries, unless granted special dispensation to enter.

I am outside the US waiting to get a visa in one of the affected categories. Is there any way I can apply for an exemption from the new restrictions?

Yes, the Proclamation outlines a number of exemptions that can be requested at the consulate. Among other categories of aliens exempt from the Proclamation based on their work in the national interest of the U.S. are aliens are (a) critical to the defense, (b) law enforcement, (c)diplomacy, (d) national security of the United States; (e) involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized; (f) involved with the provision of medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19; or (g) necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.

I am in the US on one of the affected categories. I have an extension pending or will soon need to file an extension. Am I affected?

No, the proclamation only affects those outside the US without valid visas. However, if your visa stamp has expired or will expire before you want to travel, we do not advise you to travel until further clarification is issued. The current language of the Proclamation is not clear on this subject. We are awaiting further clarification on the question of visa renewals.

This will not affect your ability to continue working in the US without interruption.

I am a J-1 physician currently abroad, can I be exempt based on my work that is focused on medical research?

The J-1 physician program, like the College and University Student, Government Visitor, Professor, Research Scholar and Specialist, are not affected by this proclamation.

I am in the US on one of the affected visas, but my spouse is outside the US. Can they enter?

If your spouse has a valid H-4, L-2, or J-2 visa, they can enter on their visa. If they do not have a valid visa, the proclamation is currently unclear on whether they will be able to enter the US. We will update when this issue is clarified.

I have a pending I-485 Application and my Advance Parole is valid. Can I use this to enter?

Yes, the proclamation specifies that Advance Parole documents continue to be valid for entry.

My spouse is in the US and has a pending extension of their H-4, L-2 or J-2. Will they be affected? Will this affect their EAD application?

No, this will not affect extensions of dependents’ statuses or EADs.

I have a pending I-140 and/or I-485 application. Does this Proclamation affect me?

If you are in the US, your applications are not affected. If you are outside the US and have an approved I-140, you may not be able to obtain an immigrant visa once the consulates reopen until the termination of this Proclamation.

I am Canadian and do not have a visa stamp. I have an H-1B or L-1 approval notice. Can I enter the US?

The proclamation does not directly discuss this scenario. Our current assumption is that Canadians will be able to travel with their valid approval notices, since they are visa exempt. However, there may be a restriction on travel for approvals received after the Proclamation.

I am a H-1B visa holder with an approved by USCIS H-1B petition. I am currently in my home country and waiting for a visa interview. Am I subject to the visa suspension?

Yes. It appears that all three prongs of the Proclamation – being outside of the US, not having a valid U.S. visa, or a valid travel document – are met. You will have to wait until the Proclamation is no longer in effect, unless you qualify for an exception.

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Please be advised that there are many questions that we may not be able to definitively answer until we receive further guidance. The proclamation contains a number of ambiguities that may only be clarified over time. We will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves.

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