PUBLICATIONS

President Trump Anticipated to Temporarily "Pause" Processing for Green Cards

Date   Apr 22, 2020

On April 20, 2020, President Trump tweeted, without details, his intention to sign an Executive Order, “…to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” He is expected to sign an Executive Order today that will temporarily suspend the issuance of green cards (permanent visas) to foreign nationals but potentially leave temporary work visas in place. Although the specific details of the forthcoming immigration order are not clear, President Trump’s comments during the White House briefing on Tuesday, April 21, indicate that he intends to temporarily stop the issuance of green cards for 60 days but could extend that period with a secondary order depending on the state of the economy at that time. After an outcry from the business community in response to President Trump’s tweet, he backed off potentially stalling temporary work visas.

Immigration processing is technical and complex, so some key unknowns at this time are: whether the anticipated immigration order will halt those applying for green cards both outside of and inside the U.S.; whether it will impact both family-sponsored green cards and employment-sponsored green cards; whether interim work and travel authorization benefits issued to those with pending green card applications will also stop; and whether it will have collateral impact on temporary employment-sponsored work visas. Based on the Administration’s comments, there will likely be exemptions for foreign farmworkers who are essential to the food supply chain and foreign healthcare providers assisting in the coronavirus fight.

Employers' Bottom Line

At this time, it seems relatively clear that the Executive Order will be temporary in nature and provide a number of exceptions, so it will not be a permanent policy shift. In addition, the immigration order could be challenged and litigated if there is not a clear legal authority for the President's forthcoming actions.

Without any concrete details at this time, it is difficult to predict how heavily a green card stoppage will be felt by companies employing foreign workers. This is more so because immigration processing both inside and outside the U.S. has already been substantially slowed by actions the Administration has taken since mid-March to stem the spread of the Coronavirus (i.e. travel restrictions on travelers from a number of countries in Europe and China; closure of the Canada and Mexico borders to non-essential travelers; elimination of routine visa processing services at virtually all U.S. consular posts around the world; suspension of the expedited premium processing service by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).

If you employ a foreign worker who will reach the statutory maximum time limit associated with his nonimmigrant temporary work status and will rely on the filing of a green card to continue work authorization, it will be important to discuss the impact of the imminent order with immigration counsel. In addition, foreign workers on temporary nonimmigrant work visas should notify their managers before undertaking any international travel to avoid getting stuck overseas inadvertently. Numerous countries outside the U.S. have instituted their own travel restrictions, so it will be important to consider those prior to any departure. If a foreign worker must travel internationally, please notify your FordHarrison attorney or experienced immigration counsel.

As this is a developing story, we will provide updates as more information becomes available.

If you have any questions regarding the issues addressed in this Alert or have other business immigration questions, please contact Geetha Adinata, head of FordHarrison's Business Immigration practice group at gadinata@fordharrison.com, or Charlie Roach, croach@fordharrison.com, or Loren Locke, llocke@fordharrison.com, in the Business Immigration practice group. Of course, you may also contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work. For information on various immigration-related coronavirus issues, including governmental travel bans, changes in immigration processes, suspension of government services, and office closings as well as practical tips on how businesses can manage the impact of this global healthcare crisis as it relates to immigration issues, please see our Coronavirus Taskforce Immigration page.