New H-1B Visas Halted Through 2020

President Trump suspends H-1B and other visas until the end of the year

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President Trump signed an executive order on June 22 placing a ban on approving several types of temporary employment-based visas through 2020. The order also extends the current green card ban that was enacted in April. 

Trump cited COVID-19’s disruption in the nation’s economy and high unemployment rate as the reason for the ban. It directs business to turn to American workers, when possible, to fill necessary roles. The U.S. unemployment rate is 13.3%, the highest since the Great Depression. 

The order states that after reviewing nonimmigrant programs, the Trump administration found current worker admissions in several visa categories pose “a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the current recovery.”

Which workers will be affected by the ban?

The order freezes access to new visas for several categories of workers:

  • H-1B visas for professional and tech workers
  • H-4 visas for spouses of H-1B holders
  • H-2B visas for seasonal workers in landscaping and hospitality
  • L-1 visas for executives and managers transferred within companies
  • J-1 visas for interns, au pairs, trainees or people on work-study summer programs

Who is exempt from the ban? 

  • Visa holders already in the U.S.
  • Workers with previously approved visas
  • Health care workers engaged on treating and researching COVID-19
  • Workers in services essential to the U.S. food supply chain
  • Workers whose entry is deemed necessary to the nation’s interest
  • Workers who won 2020’s H-1B lottery and are waiting for their status to take effect on October 1, 2020

Current valid visa holders working in the U.S. may continue to apply for extensions, adjustments or changes to their status. 

Green card ban extended through the end of the year

In April, the Trump administration put a 60-day ban on green card applications. The June executive order extends through the end of 2020. The original order banned issuing green cards to a limited range of people, including: 

  • Spouses and minor children under age 21 of green current green card holders filing from outside the U.S.
  • Parents, siblings, and children, 21 years or older of U.S. citizens filing from outside the U.S.  
  • All employment-based green cards except EB-5
  • Diversity visas

The green card ban also expects to help American workers. Many entrants through the green card program, spouses and children in particular, often obtain jobs in the U.S. during their stay. These, the administration believes, could be filled by American workers as the economy recovers. 

Who benefits?

The Trump administration expects the restrictions will free up over 500,000 jobs normally slotted for visa holders that displaced American workers can fill. Although some argue with the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, it’s uncertain whether those jobs will return. 

Approximately 15% of job loss is currently being felt in the restaurant and hospitality industries: the ban specifies these workers in particular. The hope is that as the recovery continues, U.S. workers will have a more favored status in filling vacancies throughout the economy. 

It’s estimated over 20 million Americans are currently out of work. For many, additional unemployment insurance benefits at the state and federal level under the Payroll Protection Program are easing the financial burden of their job loss. 

But additional unemployment benefits from the federal government are set to expire in July. For these employees, reduced competition for jobs may be critical in getting them back to work and off unemployment rolls. 

Tech companies worry the ban will limit their ability to maintain operations during the pandemic, particularly as Americans rely more heavily on technology during shutdowns. But for many organizations, the ability of these employees to work remotely, may help reduce impact during the visa ban. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many U.S. embassies around the world are currently closed. Because of these closures, none are currently conducting visa interviews or allowing new applications to be applied for or processed. 

This slowdown in demand and acceptance for visas, along with current travel bans restricting visitors and workers from Asia and Europe due to the virus may limit the impact of the executive order.

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