In light of border closures, countries all over have ceased visa issuance and, in a few cases, have cancelled visas that have not expired. China, for example, has cancelled all visas issued prior to March 28th. Most countries have also limited their consulate services to emergency and urgent cases for their citizens. Some closed their consulates and embassies completely to observe social distancing while others have issued new, visa-like, procedures to get travel exemptions during border closure restrictions. For instance, to re-enter Singapore, even existing short- and long- term pass holders must apply again for re-entry.
The USA, specifically, had already suspended visa interviews, both immigrant and non-immigrant, at many locations since March 19th.. Since declaring a national emergency concerning the coronavirus outbreak on March 1, 2020, President Donald Trump of the United States has issued a handful of proclamations relating to the entry of foreign visitors who have visited China, Iran, the EU, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. The latest proclamation was released on April 23rd and related to the suspension of entry of certain classes of immigrant visas. Below is our understanding of the gist of the proclamation.
What is it?
The relevant portion of the proclamation states as follows:
Section 1. Suspension and Limitation on Entry. The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.
Sec. 2. Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry. (a) The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall apply only to aliens who:
(i) are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;
(ii) do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and
(iii) do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.
In context with the rest of the proclamation and press conferences given by the President, this ban appears to focus on new applicants for residency who are outside of the U.S.
The language of the proclamation does not state if application processing and interviews will be suspended for same period, or if the suspension relates to entry only.
Who does it affect?
The suspension on entry affects “aliens as immigrants.” Aliens as immigrants are those seeking residency to live and work in the U.S.
There are major exceptions to this. The proclamation specifically excludes the following classes of immigrants: anyone in the health profession relating to combating the coronavirus and their dependents, EB-5 investors, spouses of United States Citizens (USC), children of USC under 21, adoptees, those under the U-visa, members of the armed forces and their dependents, special immigrant visa holders, and those in the National Interest of the United States. It also excludes lawful permanent residents, someone who already had permission to immigrate previously.
Where does it apply?
The new proclamation applies to applicants currently outside of the U.S. seeking to enter as a resident. It does not affect those seeking residency who are already in the United States.
When does it take effect?
The proclamation takes effect on April 23nd and will remain in place for the next 60 days. This probably means that if you have a non-immigrant visa like an H, L or O, you may continue to enter (unless you have any other entry bar not relating to this proclamation). However, if you are approved to get an immigrant visa, you may not be issued one in the next 60 days. And, even if you were issued an immigrant visa in the next 60 days, you would still not be able to enter the U.S. as an immigrant within the next 60 days.
The proclamation may be modified if the Secretary of Homeland Security recommends modification at least 10 days before the date of expiration.
Why was it created?
The current state of the U.S. economy, expected protracted economic recovery, record high levels of unemployment (particularly among African Americans and other minorities), and competition for jobs post-recovery are the reasons given for this proclamation. The President has stated that this 60-day delay was necessary to protect the local workforce from a surge in new labor supply when lawful permanent residents were already in a precarious labor situation.
Additionally, the proclamation has requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security review non-immigrant visa programs and to make a recommendation in 30 days.
The full declaration can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-immigrants-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-economic-recovery-following-covid-19-outbreak/