The Trump Administration Bans New Temporary Workers
On June 22, 2020, the Trump Administration issued yet another travel ban Executive Order. Aimed at protecting the US labor market from foreign competition and ameliorating high unemployment brought on by the COVID-19 lockdowns, this ban prevents the admission of new foreign workers to the United States.
Specifically, this ban prohibits the admission of foreign nationals in the following nonimmigrant visa categories:
- H-1B, H-2B, and H-4 temporary workers;
- J-1 and J-2 exchange visitor if the foreign national is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program; and
- L-1 and L-2 intracompany transferee.
The limitations on this travel ban indicate that the intention is to stop the flow of new foreign workers to the United States, not to prevent the entry of foreign workers who are already in or have ties to the United States. This travel ban does not apply foreign nationals that are lawfully present in the United States on the day of implementation and does not apply to individuals who presently hold a valid nonimmigrant visa. In addition, it bears noting that treaty based employment nonimmigrant visas such as E visas and TN visas, and Extraordinary Ability visas such as O-1 are unaffected by this travel ban.
Due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, all US embassies and consulates have suspended routine visa services and the land ports of entry on the northern and southern border are closed to all but essential travelers. This travel ban will not have any effect until the consulates reopen because right now, the consulates are only issuing visas on an emergency basis. Once the consulates reopen, individuals who are abroad seeking an H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J, or L visa who were not in the United States on June 22, 2020 or do not hold a valid nonimmigrant visa should be refused a visa. That does not mean that unaffected individuals will not encounter difficulties. Even without pop-up travel bans such as this one, immigration law is complicated. Even though consular officials are highly educated and well trained, foreign nationals may encounter difficulties and should be prepared to explain and prove that they are not affected by this order.
Finally, it bears noting that this travel ban does not mention changing or extending nonimmigrant status in the United States. This means that an employer seeking to hire an H-1B worker who is presently working at another employer is free to file a petition to change employer. Additionally, an employer that presently employs an H or L employee is free to petition to extend their employment. Individuals seeking status in one of the banned visa categories or employers seeking to employ a foreign national in a banned category should seek the counsel of a competent immigration attorney.