Trump’s Executive Order to “Suspend Immigration”: Is it really a broad sweeping suspension?
In a late-night tweet on April 20, 2020, President Trump indicated his intention to temporarily suspend immigration into the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 22, 2020, he signed his official proclamation, effective April 23, 2020 at 11:59pm. The scope of his order has been the source of much anxiety and uncertainty in the immigration community. Gee & Zhang has analyzed his proclamation and has determined that it is currently far from the broad “suspension of immigration” in his tweet, but it does have limited implications for a very specific set of foreign nationals and may lead to further restrictions in the coming weeks.,
Specifically, the order applies only to foreign nationals who are currently outside of the U.S. who intend to apply for Immigrant Visas. President Trump has issued a 60-day suspension of entry for these intending immigrants. However, U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad have already suspended the processing of these applications and in-person interviews in March due to COVID-19 concerns, so the proclamation essentially makes official the suspension that is already in practical effect and extends it for a further 60 days. While these agencies outside the U.S. remain closed, prospective applicants can continue working on their paperwork with the National Visa Center (NVC), which is currently operating with reduced staff. Also, individuals may continue working on their web-based applications though the DOS’ Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).
To help relieve the anxiety caused by the President’s broad tweet, Gee & Zhang reinforces the many exceptions to his official proclamation. In other words, the proclamation does not apply to:
- Nonimmigrant visa holders. Foreign nationals who hold nonimmigrant visas, including H, L, TN, O, and B, may continue to stay in the U.S. for the duration of their authorized stay. Nonimmigrant visa holders can and should also continue to timely apply for extensions. Gee & Zhang further advises that these visa holders file for extensions as early as possibly up to 6 months prior to the expiration of the authorized stay.
- New applicants for nonimmigrant visas. People may continue to file applications for new nonimmigrant classifications with United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency located with the U.S. tasked with adjudicating immigration applications. Although, the foreign nationals outside the U.S. may have to wait outside the U.S. pending resumption of regular visa stamping services at U.S. consulates abroad.
- People already in the U.S. Foreign nationals in the U.S. who intend to apply for apply for legal permanent residency (aka, Adjustment of Status), should continue their application process, but are encouraged to do so as expeditiously as possible.
- Holders of Advance Parole. The President’s proclamation suspends the entry of immigrants to the United States who do not have an official travel document other than an immigrant visa, such as approved Advance Parole. In other words, holders of valid immigration visas and approved Advanced Parole should not be affected by the recent suspension of U.S. entry.
- Legal Permanent Residents (LPR). The suspension of entry into the U.S. does not apply to those who already hold LPR status.
There are many more exceptions to the proclamation, including exceptions for spouses of U.S. citizens and healthcare professionals seeking to enter the U.S. on immigrant visas. Due to the storm of uncertainly in immigration under the current administration, we urge foreign nationals to consult with a Gee & Zhang attorney as soon as possible regarding their specific situation.
Perhaps most ominously, the President’s proclamation includes language that directs the Secretaries of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security to “review nonimmigrant programs and recommend other appropriate measures to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of U.S. workers.” The implications here are unknown but our concerns lay with the President expanding immigration restrictions in the next 30 to 60 days.
Gee & Zhang continues to closely monitor and analyze these rapid developments, and we are here to answer your questions and support your immigration needs.
 American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Summary of the April 22 Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Immigrants.” April 23, 2020. Available at https://www.aila.org/infonet/sumamry-april-22-presidential-proclamation
 “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.” Available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-immigrants-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-economic-recovery-following-covid-19-outbreak/