What's in Trump's Executive Order Stopping Immigration to U.S. Because of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic?

The temporary bar on immigration is more complex than it sounds.

By , J.D.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

On Monday, April 20, Donald Trump issued a statement via Twitter that he planned to sign an Executive Order temporarily halting immigration into the United States, as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Though the meaning of this statement was widely discussed by both the media and immigration advocates, nothing was known for two days.

Many also pointed out that obtaining a visa or green card is currently impossible as a practical matter. Routine services at all U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have been suspended except for urgent and emergency visa needs as well as for farm workers and medical professionals assisting with COVID-19. Similarly, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended in-person services, including interviews and biometrics processing.

Finally, on April 22, 2020, the proclamation was issued. As often happens, Trump's Twitter statements was broader than the reality.

For starters, the bar covers only applicants coming from outside the United States, and only those applying for lawful permanent residence (a green card) who have not yet received an immigrant visa.

That means applicants for adjustment of status within the U.S. can still proceed (if and when USCIS can actually interview them or agrees to waive the interview requirement). It also means people can, in theory, still seek temporary work-based visas; including for au pairs, the subject of a recent Fox News host's concern.

However, the proclamation does cover both employment-based and all family-based green card applicants more distant than spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, as well as diversity visa (lottery) applicants. This means many foreign workers will be affected, as well as other categories of family-based visa applicants, such as parents of U.S. citizens, adult children (over 21) of U.S. citizens, married children of U.S. citizens, and spouses and children (regardless of age) of lawful permanent residents.

The exceptions, or people who can proceed with immigrant visa applications, include those who:

  • seek U.S. entry as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical or other research to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating its effects; and their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age
  • seek to enter the United States under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
  • are the spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • are under 21 and the child of a U.S. citizen, or a prospective adoptee seeking to enter in IR-4 or IH-4 visa classification
  • would, by entering, further U.S. law enforcement objectives
  • are members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouse and children
  • seek to enter on a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, and their spouse and children, or
  • would aid the U.S. national interest.

Although the proclamation is set to expire in 60 days, it explicitly says the government will consider extending it at that time.

For help in figuring out whether or when you can pursue U.S. immigration, consult an attorney.

Effective Date: April 23, 2020