Visa Applicants From Hong Kong Face Longer Waits and Placed Under Mainland China's Per-Country Limits, Per Trump Order

The Trump administration orders longer waits, no more diversity visa eligibility, and other changes to U.S. immigration possibilities for people from Hong Kong.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

The Trump Administration, via an executive order issued July 14, has vastly changed the U.S. immigration situation for people born in Hong Kong. Although the order covers a great deal of ground, a little-noticed provision will undo privileges that Hong Kong natives enjoyed in contrast to citizens of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Specifically, the order suspends various laws that had treated people born in Hong Kong as if they were from a separate country, rather than grouping them with people from the PRC for immigration purposes. (See 9 FAM 503.2-3(A).)

That change will lead to delays for people seeking U.S. lawful permanent residence or a green card, as well as issues for nonimmigrant (temporary) visa seekers.

Because of a high population and high demand for green cards, would-be immigrants from China who aren't immediate relatives often face lengthy waits until an immigrant visa becomes available. You can observe this on the Visa Bulletin, which lists the priority dates of would-be immigrants (their place on the waiting list). The Bulletin often has a separate column for “China-Mainland Born,” showing longer waits than for “All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed.” No longer can persons born in Hong Kong look at the latter column to track their progress.

The Trump order will also prevent mean that people from Hong Kong cannot participate in the Diversity Visa program, which allots green card opportunities citizens of countries that are underrepresented in the U.S. immigration process. Again because of high demand for visas from China, that country is never on the list of those whose citizens can apply for diversity visas.

With regard to nonimmigrant visas, people from Hong Kong had formerly been granted longer-term visas; for example, 60 months on an H-1B, L-1A, or O-1 visa, as opposed to 12, 24, or three months on those same visas for nationals of the PRC. As for B-1/B-2 visitor visas, the length of time for which they'll be granted hasn't changed, but Hong Kong applicants will need to start registering in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) just as PRC applicants must do.

Effective Date: July 21, 2020; full implementation to come.