Seyfarth Synopsis: Following a late-night tweet from the President on suspending immigration into the U.S., we have learned today that the President’s executive order (“EO”) on immigration will be limited in scope. The EO is expected to pause the issuance of immigrant visas for those seeking lawful permanent residence (Green Card) status through consular processing at posts outside of the U.S. The EO is limited in scope and should not have a significant impact on the transfer of global talent. This is true, especially because existing travel restrictions and consulate closures abroad have already brought these Immigrant Visa processes to a near halt.

Following his Monday night Tweet regarding an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States, President Trump announced during his evening COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, that this order will pause the issuance of Immigrant Visas for 60 days. Preliminary information indicates the moratorium will only affect individuals applying for immigrant visas abroad. Those present, in the U.S., seeking to adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or “green card”) status by filing for an I-485 adjustment of status application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will be able to continue the process. 

The order could be executed as early as Wednesday, April 22, and will be in effect for an initial 60-day period.

At the briefing, President Trump stated that “certain exemptions” would be included in the EO, “The farmers will not be affected by this at all”. Trump also told Americans that additional opportunities for farmers to hire migrant workers may be made available. Temporary visa holders currently in the U.S., such as H-1B, E-3, L, TN, and others, are not expected to be impacted by the order. The status of these nonimmigrant visa holders will likely remain unaffected, as will their ability to file requests for extensions, amendments, and changes to their status while in the U.S. 

With most U.S. consulates closed and many countries issuing travel restrictions, immigrant visa processing is already essentially on pause as a result of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consulates started cancelling appointments in March due to COVID-19. Given this, the immediate impact of this EO on global mobility, beyond the existing travel restrictions and challenges, is limited. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also noted their sources suggested that the anticipated EO may include a review of certain  non immigrant visa categories in order to assess their economic contributions to the U.S. in the form of a report that could be due as soon as 30 days after the EO is published. The biggest unknown is the President alluding to a second executive order possibly being issued on a later date that may be supported by the report and that may be more expansive.

 “We have a secondary order that, if I want to do that, we’ll make that determination,” Trump said.

Seyfarth will issue subsequent alerts as the situation continues to develop. Should you have any questions, please reach out to your Seyfarth Shaw contact or the authors Dawn Lurie, Tieranny L. Cutler, and Mahsa Aliaskari.