On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed a Proclamation to suspend the issuance of immigrant visas starting 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 23, 2020 for 60 days. The Proclamation only affects individuals applying for permanent residency (i.e., green cards) from outside the United States. As explained below, some exceptions to this rule are carved out for those whose work may alleviate the COVID-19 outbreak, certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who may benefit U.S. national interests. For our clients who are currently consular processing an immigrant visa, they should still be able to process their applications through submission to the National Visa Center, where the application will be placed in a holding queue until this suspension is limited, after which time they may be scheduled for an interview. Because many U.S. Consulates’ visa services have been suspended already, there is no material impact on the current practices.
Importantly, the Proclamation does not apply to non-immigrant visas, Form I-140, or Form I-485. At this time, the USCIS should still be able to accept and adjudicate Form I-485 adjustment of status for individuals present in the United States if visa numbers are available. For the majority of our clients, this means the Proclamation should not affect their cases. The USCIS should continue to adjudicate these cases following the usual practices.
As detailed in the Proclamation, the immigrants who are prohibited from entering the United States for 60 days are those who:
- are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation (11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020);
- do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and
- 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.
Those exempt from these limitations include:
- any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
- any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees; and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;
- any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;
- any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;
- any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
- any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;
- any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;
- any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or
- any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.
Therefore, this means that any foreign national who does not fall under one of the exemptions will not be allowed to enter the United States, as new immigrant visas will not be issued by the consulates for the next 60 days. However, if a foreign national has an immigrant visa that was issued before April 23, 2020, s/he should still be able to enter during the validity dates of the immigrant visa.
The Proclamation also instructs the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security to review and make recommendations related to nonimmigrant visa programs within the next 30 days. Our office will continue to monitor the situation closely and will advise clients of any further updates.