Trump signs executive order limiting immigration

President Trump on Wednesday announced he had signed an executive order limiting immigration that is expected to temporarily suspend the issuance of new green cards, a move he says will protect American jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Trumps signed Executive Order stops U.S. Consulates from issuing Immigrant Visas to applicants outside the US for 60 days. The order takes effect tomorrow and lasts for 60 days.

It is important to be familiar with the legal terminology of immigration. “Immigrant Visas” refer to applicants for green cards applying at a consulate or embassy. It does not refer to those applying for green cards in the United States who are instead referred to as applicants for Adjustment of Status. Most employment-based green card applicants apply for the green card through Adjustment of Status rather than by applying for an immigrant visa outside the US at a consulate.

This Executive Order does not apply to:

  • F-1 Students, OPT, STEM OPT
  • H-1B/H-4, L-1/L-2, TN, all other temporary work visa holders
  • Cap-subject H-1Bs
  • Any application filed with USCIS
  • Temporary work visa or student visa applications at a consulate or embassy

In other words, you can continue filing any application with USCIS (including PERM with the Department of Labor) that you intended to file before the executive order. You can still apply for nonimmigrant visas at consulates or embassies once they re-open to the public. USCIS will continue to process adjustment of status applications.

“In order to protect our great American workers, I have just signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States,” Trump said at a White House briefing Wednesday.

“This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens,” Trump continued. “It will also preserve our healthcare resources for American patients.”

The order, which was released shortly after Trump’s remarks, applies to those seeking permanent residence in the United States and will last for 60 days, at which point it will be reevaluated and potentially extended. Trump said Wednesday he could change the order during the 60 days.

The order does not clarify whether it will apply only to foreign nationals outside the United States seeking a green card for entry, or whether it will also apply to foreign nationals within the country seeking to change from temporary to permanent status.

That distinction, lawyers say, is important because an order limiting change of status applications could upend the lives of legal immigrants in the country, inviting extensive litigation.

But it did carve out exceptions for essential workers, including medical workers, spouses and children of U.S. citizens, and “certain other aliens.” Trump also noted Tuesday that the order would not apply to seasonal farm workers, who would seek seasonal guest-worker visas.

By far, the largest category of immigrant visas are those granted to spouses and children of U.S. citizens — the hardest hit category of immigrants will likely be those who seek green cards through their employers or on the basis of their professional merits.

Trump first said cryptically on Twitter Monday night that he would sign an order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States, citing “the attack from the Invisible Enemy” and “the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens.”

The announcement prompted immediate and widespread questions about the scope and motivation of the order, with critics accusing Trump of using the virus as a guise to advance a long-held agenda of limiting migration. Heath experts also said such a move would do little to reduce the spread of the virus, given that the U.S. already has significant community spread.

Trump indicated on Tuesday that the primary goal of the order was to blunt the economic damage of the coronavirus, which has forced businesses countrywide to close and layoff workers. Roughly 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits over the last four weeks.

The president has separately banned travel from China, Iran, and most of Europe in addition to restricting traffic along the borders with Canada and Mexico in order to blunt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, which had sickened over 840,000 Americans as of Wednesday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Trump acknowledged Tuesday that his administration is also preparing a second order that he may later sign to further limit immigration, but provided no further details on what shape it would take.