During today’s Coronavirus Task Force Briefing, President Donald Trump announced that he had signed his “Immigration Ban” – an Executive Order temporarily suspending the issuance of new green cards to those currently outside the United States.

President Trump highlighted the Administration’s underlying policy rationales for the Order, claiming that immigrants have an adverse impact on the labor market during a period of high unemployment, that Department of State resources need to be preserved for U.S. citizens seeking assistance from consular offices abroad, and that immigrants allegedly strain the U.S healthcare system. Shortly after President Trump’s remarks, the White House posted the proclamation (available here).

Unfortunately, this ban is not a surprise. In the face of growing questions and criticism about his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, it was only a matter of time before President Trump resorted to distraction, blame, and fearmongering, and immigrants have been the target of choice for this Administration since Day 1.

Trump’s Immigration Ban ONLY applies to those who are outside the United States TOMORROW – Thursday, April 23rd – and are seeking to enter initially as permanent residents/green card holders.

The following are EXEMPT from the ban:

  • Those already considered lawful permanent residents/green card holders

  • Spouses and minor children (unmarried and under the age of 21) of U.S. citizens and prospective adoptees

  • Medical professionals seeking to enter initially as permanent residents – physicians, nurses, healthcare professionals, medical researchers, etc., or those performing work essential to combating, and recovering from, COVID-19

  • Special Immigrant Visas or EB-5 (“immigrant investor”) visas

  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces & their spouses/children

  • Those immigrants whose entry would be in the “national interest”

Note that this ban does not apply to ANY green card applicant who is filing from within the U.S. (i.e. those filing adjustment of status with the USCIS). According to The Washington Post, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved about 577,000 green card applications last year. However, most of those green cards were issued to applicants who where already residing within the U.S. with some sort of provisional or temporary status. The limitation of the Order to apply to those who are outside the United States is important. Had the order also applied to those seeking adjustment of status in the U.S., it could have upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the U.S. and their U.S. citizen families and employers, likely inviting extensive litigation.

This ban also does not apply to ANY temporary visas (student visas, H-1B visas, exchange visitor visas, etc.) however, as outlined in our previous blog post, temporary immigration was all but halted anyway.

Does the Executive Order Apply to the K-1 Fiancée Visa?

This ban should not apply to the K-1 fiancée visa. As mentioned, U.S. Embassies and Consulates across the globe are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, so it appears that only those who already have their K-1 visa stamp could likely enter the U.S. at this time.The Executive Order specifically addresses entry by immigrants. While the K-1 is slightly different from other temporary visas, it is not considered an immigrant visa. A K-1 holder does not become a permanent resident until after they enter the U.S., get married, apply for a green card, and obtain their green card based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen. Unlike green card holders, K-1 visa holders also do not have work authorization upon entry to the U.S., so they do not have immediate access to the U.S. labor market.

Does the Executive Order Impact Families?

Unfortunately, parents of U.S. citizens are banned, as are adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens, the latter categories would have waited years and years to even get to apply for their green cards. Additionally, immediate relatives of green card holders are also banned.

Limiting family-based green cards like this appears to be a political move as the Trump Administration has long tried to eliminate these categories from the green card system. See our Managing Attorney, Fiona, on MSNBC in January 2018, with @Maria_Hinojosa discussing how, in trying to negotiate a deal for DACA recipients, the Administration wanted to limit family-based immigration just to spouses and minor children of US citizens which at that time was estimated to reduce green cards by about 400,000 per year. Coincidentally – or not – this Immigration Ban mirrors the family-based limitations suggested by the Administration over 2 years ago.

The Immigration Ban is valid for 60 days but it may be continued “as necessary”.

If you, or someone you know is affected by this, and you would like to assess their potential options, please contact us via our contact form here, or by email at info@mcenteelaw.com. As a law firm founded and run by immigrants, we are committed to advocating for those impacted by this Executive Order and beyond.

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