April 28, 2020

The Presidential Proclamation of April 22, 2020, ( not an Executive Order)  Temporarily Suspends Immigrant Visa Issuance to Persons Outside the United States Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During Economic Recovery Following COVD-19 Outbreak

Despite its title, this Proclamation has little to do with protecting US jobs: note that it bars issuance of visas to parents of US citizens.

It formalizes as policy the Department of State suspension of routine immigrant visa services at U.S. Embassies and consulates worldwide, announced over a month earlier, on March 18, 2020. 

It applies to people physically outside the US at 11:59pm on April 23, 2020:
-who do not already have a valid immigrant visa, and
-who do not already have a valid official travel document, such as transportation letter, boarding foil or advance parole document.

The following categories are exempt from this Proclamation:
-Lawful Permanent Residents
-physicians, nurses or other health care professionals seeking to enter the US as immigrants 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 COVID-19, as well as their spouses & children
-individuals entering the US as EB-5 immigrant investors

-Spouses of US citizens

-children under age 21 & prospective adoptees of US citizens, seeking to enter as immigrants under IR-4 or IH-4 immigrant visas
-individuals who would further important law enforcement objectives

-members of the US Armed Forces and their spouses & children
-Special Immigrant Afghan or Iraqi translators & Government employees, seeking to enter under SI or SQ classification, with their spouses & children
-Individuals whose entry would be in the National Interest, as determined by DOS & DHS
(no clarification as to whether this means NIW beneficiaries or something else.)
-asylum seekers
-Nonimmigrant visa holders  – *BUT the Secretaries of State, Labor & Homeland Security will revisit this issue within 30 days of the effective date

A determination whether or not an individual meets one of the enumerated exemptions is made at the discretion of the consular officer. Such discretionary decisions by consular officers are non-reviewable.

Expiry: The proclamation expires 60 days from its effective date, but may be renewed as necessary. Within 50 days of effective date, the Secretary of DHS  (in consultation with State,  & Labor) will recommend whether or not it needs to be continued.

Stephen Miller’s expressed intent, per a recorded call with right-wing supporters, is to make the immigrant visa ban permanent, and to expand it to temporary visas.

A lawsuit was filed seeking a Temporary Restraining Order to halt implementation of the Proclamation on Monday 4/27, and a hearing will be held on whether to grant a preliminary injunction on Wednesday 4/29.

While the immediate impacts of the proclamation are minimal, since most US Embassies and Consulates worldwide had been closed to regular visa processing for over a month already, the open-ended provisions about extending the period for which it remains in effect, and possibly expanding its reach in 30 days to block temporary visas are cause for grave concern and continued vigilance.

The groups of people most immediately and severely impacted due to time constraints are 1) children of Lawful Permanent Residents who have approved petitions but have not already been issued an immigrant visa, and who will “age out” (reach age 21 and no longer be eligible to immigrate as a child) during the effective period of the Proclamation, and 2) Diversity Visa Lottery winners scheduled for immigrant visa interviews prior to COVID-19 whose interviews were cancelled due to the pandemic, or those who would otherwise be eligible for interviews & woud be priorities for scheduling once Embassies recommence regular immigrant visa processing. By law, these individuals must obtain immigrant visas and enter the United States before September 30, or they will lose their eligibility.