On Monday, June 22, 2020, President Donald Trump issued another executive order regarding immigration into the United States. The order suspends new work visas—among them H-1B, H-2B, J, and L visas—through the end of the year. According to officials from the Trump administration, the ban’s purpose is to limit competition for unemployed American workers as the nation attempts to rebuild an economy flattened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The executive order also extended the freeze on the issuance of new green cards, initially slated to last for 60 days following its issuance on April 22, through the end of the year. This new order and the extension of the previous one will effectively prevent as many as 525,000 foreign workers from coming to the U.S. for employment.
Who is Affected?
The freeze applies to the issuance of new H-1B and H-2B visas (including H-4 visas, some of whom are authorized to work in the United States with the proper documentation); J visas, “to the extent the alien is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program”; and L visas, as well as “any alien accompanying or following to join such alien” in all of the above-listed categories.
The orders do not apply to foreign workers currently living and working in the U.S. or to permanent residents seeking citizenship. Nor will it affect people outside the United States who already possess valid visas, seasonal farm workers, or a “narrow” category of medical workers engaged in coronavirus research, according to The New York Times.
“Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy,” President Trump says in the executive order. “But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”
Many American corporations, including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, have announced their opposition to the policy. Many tech companies rely on the H-1B visa program to recruit skilled workers from abroad. Leaders of these companies claim that Americans are not willing or able to do many of these types of jobs, and they further claim that sending such skilled workers elsewhere would slow economic growth and reduce the creation of new jobs. The new executive order also restricts American companies with branches overseas (and international companies with branches in the U.S.) from transferring foreign executives or employees to the U.S.
Other critics of the president claim that he’s using the pandemic as a vehicle to institute the broader strokes of immigration policy overhaul that he promised during his 2016 campaign.
For foreign citizens looking to come to the U.S. for an extended period of time, their best option at the moment appears to be a student visa (F visa). An F visa would allow them to pursue educational opportunities at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level, and to remain in the country until the program is complete.