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President Trump Signs Executive Order Temporarily Suspending Green Card Processing for Certain Applicants

April 23, 2020

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order implementing a 60-day suspension of permanent resident (green card) processing for all applicants who are currently outside the United States and who do not already have a valid immigrant visa and official travel document. The ban goes into effect on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Several categories of green card applicants are exempt from or not affected by the ban, including applicants for adjustment of status who are already inside the United States, spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, health care professionals seeking to enter the United States to alleviate the effects of COVID-19, EB-5 investor visa applicants, asylum seekers, members of the US Armed Forces and their spouses and children, and individuals whose admission to the United States would further U.S. law enforcement objectives or otherwise is in the national interest, among others.

The policy will be reevaluated in 60 days, at which point it may be discontinued, modified, or extended. We anticipate that it will be subject to litigation.

While applicants for temporary working visas (such as E, H, L, O, and P nonimmigrants), students and visitors are not included in the ban, the order requires officials to review nonimmigrant (temporary) visa programs within 30 days of the effective date and recommend to the President other economic stimulation measures to promote “the prioritization, hiring and employment” of US workers.

We are aware of the stress and anxiety that this situation is causing, and recognize the deeply troubling association of immigrants to “U.S. worker job displacement” and “the spread of the coronavirus,” both of which have been stated as justification for the order. At the same time, we note that the executive order does little to change the current reality facing all green card applicants outside the U.S. For over a month now, U.S. embassies and consulates have stopped processing green card applications (as well as temporary visa applications) except in emergency situations. The executive order simply extends the stoppage for certain green card applicants for an additional 60 days, leading many observers to view it as more of a political distraction than the radical change in policy many feared following the president’s initial tweet about suspending immigration to the U.S. Nevertheless, the Trump administration has long sought to restrict immigration to the United States as much as possible, and this is yet another way to do that. For this reason, many believe the administration will attempt to extend and possibly expand the executive order, similar to the January 2017 executive order banning travelers from a number of Muslim-majority countries, which remains in force.

We will provide updates as soon as further information becomes available.