On Tuesday, April 22, 2020, President Donald Trump signed a “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.” He had foreshadowed earlier this week, via Twitter, a forthcoming Executive Order that would limit immigration to the United States during the COVID-19 outbreak to protect U.S. citizens from further spread of the novel coronavirus and preserve jobs for American workers. Since his late-night Tweet on April 20, there has been much speculation about the restrictions that might be imposed on immigration benefits for foreign nationals and workers.

Pursuant to the Proclamation, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on April 23, 2020, a 60-day suspension will be placed on the entry of new immigrants (permanent residents) into the United States from abroad. This 60-day period may be extended as deemed necessary by the President, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Labor.

Notably, there are several major exceptions to this Proclamation. Perhaps most significantly, this suspension of immigrant visa processing does not apply to anyone who is in the United States on the effective date of the proclamation, including those who have filed for permanent residency from within the United States (via the “Adjustment of Status” process) or those who may be preparing to submit applications for permanent resident status from within the United States. The suspension and limitation on entry also does not apply to:

  • Current lawful permanent residents of the United States
  • Any foreign nationals seeking to enter on an immigrant visa to work as a physician, nurse, or healthcare professional to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak (and their spouses/children)
  • Any foreign national seeking to enter the United States as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or as a child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen
  • Any other foreign national whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security

While this Proclamation may hinder the ability to come to the United States of those foreign nationals currently abroad who are in the midst of their immigrant visa processing, the suspension does not appear to be as wide-reaching as initially suspected. However, this may be the first step in a wider effort to restrict visa/immigration options for foreign nationals seeking to work, study, or live in the United States.

Buried within the Proclamation is a clause stating that: “Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review non-immigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

It therefore seems likely that additional restrictions may be forthcoming, targeted at temporary work visas, including the ability of those already in the United States to change or extend their nonimmigrant status.

The Immigration team at Harris Beach will be monitoring these developments closely and will provide updates as soon as they occur. We recommend contacting a member of our team to discuss how these developments may impact you, your employees, or your family members.

Our Immigration Law Practice Group includes immigration attorneys that work across New York state in our Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse offices. Our immigration lawyers focus on strategies – including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals – to ensure that employers are able to hire, transfer, and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.