New Presidential Proclamation limiting Nonimmigrant Work Visa Entry

On the evening of June 22 (after business hours), the White House issued a new proclamation intended to target nonimmigrant (temporary employment visas under the highly questionable guise of protecting jobs for US workers during any economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic).

The first item contained in the proclamation doesn’t address nonimmigrant work visas at all, and merely extends the earlier April 22 proclamation which impacted immigrant visa issuance through the end of the year. This proclamation was originally intended to last only 60 days.

The order appears to apply only to individuals seeking to ENTER the US from abroad in H-1B, H-2B, J-1 (in most categories), and family members of those holding these principal visas (H-4 spouses are therefore impacted, whether or not working pursuant to Employment Authorization Documents).

The order does NOT appear to apply to those already in the US in any status listed above, even those seeking to amend, extend or change from and to these types of status. The order does not appear to apply to other types of nonimmigrant status such as the E, O-1 or TN categories.

It may not even apply to those entering from abroad who already have visa stamps or other travel documents permitting entry, though at this early stage this is less clear The order does apply to those seeking one of the listed visas (H-1B, H-2A, J-1, L-1) who are outside the US who do not yet have valid entry documents, whether because a visa petition is not yet approved by USCIS or another adjudicating officer or because they have been unable to date to obtain a travel document such as a passport visa stamp at a consular post (possibly because these posts have been closed since March).

As with the April order, there are several exceptions going beyond the limited applicability of the rule. This proclamation does not apply to:

  • Any lawful permanent resident of the United States (by definition, such a person won’t have a valid nonimmigrant work visa after obtaining permanent residence, so it’s unclear why this is included);
  • A spouse or child of a US citizen (such a person will often have other options – while this will apply to some the pool would be very limited);
  • Anyone seeking to enter in one of these categories for the purpose of providing temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain (this may in fact actually be a useful and logical exception); and
  • Anyone seeking to enter in one of these categories whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees (this has become a standard exception, though it’s unclear who would be deemed to qualify).

The order does reference other categories of immigrants (such as those entering in the EB-2 and EB-3 employment-based immigrant categories), primarily under s section instructing various government agencies to further research the impact of these categories on employment opportunities for citizens and permanent residents. There is no immediate impact to these categories from this proclamation, however.

We’ll continue to update as further guidance and interpretation starts to come out.