By Lewis-Burke Associates
On June 22, President Trump issued “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak.” The proclamation is an extension and expansion of previous presidential proclamations restricting immigration. While the proclamation impacts visas important to higher education and research (H-1B, H-4, and some J-1 visas), it does not impact the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, as was initially feared. The proclamation suspends, through December 31, 2020, the entry of certain individuals who are outside the United States and do not have in their possession, as of June 24, a valid and unexpired visa or related travel document.
The suspension of visas comes with several exceptions. The proclamation states that “any alien whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees" would be excluded from ban on entry. The proclamation states additional areas of potential exceptions include individuals “involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized; are involved with the provision of medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19; or are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.” Exceptions for the J visa includes those in professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, college or university student, or alien physician categories. The suspension would apply to J visas for those in the intern, trainee, and Summer Work Travel program categories.
The proclamation directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consider issuing regulations “ensuring that the presence in the United States of H-1B nonimmigrants does not disadvantage United States workers." DHS, Department of State, and the Department of Labor are also directed to recommend modifications to the proclamation within 30 days of June 24 and every 60 days thereafter. As such, restrictions could be extended to visas and programs not currently affected, including the OPT program and potentially adding more restrictions to H-1B visas. A fact sheet accompanying the proclamation states, “LEADING AN AMERICA FIRST RECOVERY: President Donald J. Trump is extending and expanding the suspension of certain visas through the end of the year to ensure American workers take first priority as we recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus.” Future proclamations are likely to continue to use COVID-19 and economic recovery as justifications.
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