On Wednesday evening President Trump signed an Executive Order that effectively suspends the issuance of immigrant visas for an initial period of 60 days. At the moment, the order only applies to individuals currently outside the United States wishing to obtain an immigrant visa (as opposed to short term non-immigrant visas like the H, E, L, or O and OPT and student visas). Since most applicants apply for green cards through adjustment of status proceedings in the U.S., this will have fairly limited impact, especially given the fact that U.S. Consulates have already suspended their operations, including the issuance of immigrant visas, in response to the current Coronavirus crisis.
The Executive Order establishes the premise that permanent residents are granted “open-market” employment authorization documents, and as such new limits may be needed to protect U.S. citizens who have lost their jobs due to the current coronavirus crisis. The Order does not apply to anyone present in U.S. on April 23, 2020, already possessing an immigrant visa, or certain immigrant categories (EB-5, marriage based petitions, other miscellaneous exemptions). As with other orders, it also does not apply to the spouse or minor children of a U.S. citizen. In addition, exceptions will be made for medical workers, those serving in the armed forces, and other special circumstances.
While the order does not immediately impact nonimmigrant visa holders or those planning to apply H-1B, O-1,or OPT, it does instruct that “within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security … shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend … other measures … to … ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.” It is possible, therefore, for the order to be expanded to include nonimmigrant visas, which would cause massive disruption to both the immigration system and the already weakened economy. We encourage anyone who is considering applying for a nonimmigrant visa or even those who are within 6 months of expiration of their current visa to contact Wildes & Weinberg as soon as possible to discuss options and prepare petitions.