New Travel Ban Aimed at High-Skilled Workers

US Embassy Nairobi

On June 22, 2020, The Trump Administration issued a new travel ban, effective June 24, 2020 at 12:01 AM. The new proclamation expands and modifies the one made on April 22, 2020, which affected a broader group of immigrants. It also adds new sections targeting high-skilled immigrants seeking to enter the US, particularly those in H-1B (specialty occupations), H-2B (temporary non-agricultural workers), J (exchange visitors) and L (intra-company managers and employees) categories.

Here are some key provisions:

  • It amends the prior proclamation on April 22, which now terminates on December 31, 2020 (previously ending June 22, 2020), and may be amended periodically, but could also be extended
  • It is an entry ban, like most past travel bans
  • It includes anyone who is accompanying or “following to join” someone in these classifications
  • It primarily affects H-1B, H-2B, J, and L visa applicants
  • J exchange visitors are only banned in the intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program categories

Many people will want to know who is not included in this ban. There are a number of exceptions, including:

  • Anyone who is inside the US already
  • Anyone who already has a visa still valid as of June 22, 2020
  • Anyone who has non-visa travel documents including transportation letters, foils, and advance parole whether issued before or after the ban
  • Lawful permanent residents or spouses and children (under 21) of US Citizens
  • Those seeking to enter to provide temporary labor and essential services to the US food supply chain (not restricted to any particular visa category)
  • Anyone who DOS or DHS determines it is in the national interest to allow to enter

It is important to understand that this is essentially a visa ban, which impacts mostly people who would apply for visas at embassies and consulates abroad. It also will impact any family seeking to come as dependents on their spouse’s or parent’s visa.

There are some additional provisions that hint of more changes to come. The proclamation requires the Secretary of Labor to ensure that those seeking EB-2, EB-3, and H-1B status do not disadvantage US workers, but does not specific any particular actions other than investigations. It remains to be seen what the Department of Labor might do beyond what labor protections are already established in law and regulations.

The order also cites INA 214(g)(3) and suggests that this provision allows for DHS to issue regulations “regarding the efficient allocation of visas” but this is entirely unclear. This statute is silent on any restrictions that might be applied to H-1B workers.

What is the potential impact of this executive order? It is significant. These visa categories are extremely important tools that companies use to attract and keep foreign talent. They allow people to come and contribute to the US economy and eventually become residents and US Citizens. Many people who started on H-1B and L visas, for example, went on to start companies that employ significant numbers of people. This executive order sends a clear message to people that the US government isn’t interested in the contributions or talents that immigrants have to offer, a message that is completely contradictory to decades of US immigration policy and contrary to the economic interests of many US companies.