COVID-19-Related Suspension of Nonimmigrant Entry

COVID-19-Related Suspension of
Nonimmigrant Entry

Updated January 6, 2021
On June 22, 2020 President Trump issued a proclamation (amended on June 29) suspending the entry of
foreign nationals (aliens) in certain nonimmigrant (temporary) visa categories that al ow foreign nationals
to work in the United States. Citing the high unemployment rate resulting from public health measures to
reduce the spread of COVID-19, Proclamation 10052 suspends the entry of foreign nationals—and their
accompanying family members—on H-1B, H-2B, J, and L visas, with some exceptions. On December
31, 2020, President Trump issued a new proclamation extending the June proclamation through March 31,
Proclamation 10052 follows Proclamation 10014 from April 22 (which it extends through December 31,
2020) suspending the entry of permanent immigrants (see CRS Insight IN11362). In Proclamation 10014,
President Trump directed the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security to review nonimmigrant
programs and recommend measures to prioritize the hiring of U.S. workers. According to the June 22
proclamation, the Secretaries found that admitting temporary workers in the aforementioned categories
“poses a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the current recovery.”
The President cited two immigration-related legal authorities. Under Section 212(f) (8 U.S.C. §1182(f)) of
the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the President may suspend immigration when it would be
detrimental to the interests of the United States. Under INA §215(a) (8 U.S.C. §1185(a)) the President
may prescribe limitations and exceptions on who may enter or depart the United States.
How long will the suspension last?
Proclamation 10052 suspending the entry of foreign nationals in certain nonimmigrant visa categories
was in effect from June 24, 2020, through December 31, 2020, and was subsequently extended until
March 31, 2021. Beginning 30 days after the effective date, and every 60 days thereafter, the Secretary of
Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of State, may recommend
changes to it.
Who is included in the suspension?
Section 2 suspends the entry of nonimmigrants in these visa categories:
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H-1B (specialty occupation workers);
H-2B (seasonal nonagricultural workers) unless performing work essential to the food
supply chain;
J-1 (exchange visitors) in the following program categories: intern, trainee, teacher, camp
counselor, au pair, and summer work travel;
L-1 (intracompany transferees);
 accompanying spouses or children of the above (most of whom are not authorized to
work in the United States).
Who is not included in the suspension?
Section 3 exempts the following individuals:
 aliens in the United States on June 24, 2020;
 aliens with valid nonimmigrant visas or other official travel documents in the visa
categories listed above as of June 24, 2020;
 lawful permanent residents (LPRs or “green card” holders);
 spouses and children of U.S. citizens;
 aliens seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential
to the United States food supply chain;
 aliens whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretaries of
State and Homeland Security.
What other measures are included in the proclamation?
Section 5 directs Secretaries of the following three departments to take certain actions beyond the
suspension of nonimmigrant entry. Specifical y, it directs
HHS to provide guidance to DHS and DOS on measures to “reduce the risk that aliens
seeking admission or entry to the United States may introduce, transmit, or spread SARS-
CoV-2 within the United States.”
DOL to (1) take action to ensure that U.S. workers are not disadvantaged by H-1B
temporary workers or workers admitted permanently through the 2nd and 3rd employment-
based LPR categories; and (2) investigate employers of H-1B workers who may not be in
compliance with statute.
DHS to (1) ensure that biographic and biometric information is collected from al aliens
applying for immigration benefits or admission to the United States; (2) prevent aliens
from obtaining work authorization who are removable or who have been arrested for,
charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense in the United States; and (3) “ensure the
efficient al ocation of [H-1B] visas” including by re-al ocating visas from those obtained
fraudulently to legitimate applicants and “ensuring that the presence in the United States
of H-1B nonimmigrants does not disadvantage United States workers.”
The proclamation gives DOS consular officers discretion to determine whether aliens qualify for
exceptions to this suspension. The proclamation also directs the Secretaries of State, Labor, and
Homeland Security to produce standards for determining which aliens fal under the national interest

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exemption, including those “critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of
the United States,” those involved with COVID-19-related medical care and research, those “necessary to
facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States,” and alien children who
would age out of eligibility for a visa as a result of this proclamation or Proclamation 10014.
What are some implications of this proclamation?
The immediate impact is unclear, given that DOS had already suspended overseas visa processing as of
March 20, 2020. DOS visa issuance data from 2019 may provide some indication of how many
prospective nonimmigrants could be affected were visa issuances in 2020 to remain at 2019 levels. From
July 2019 to December 2019 (roughly the same months as this proclamation’s effective dates), DOS
issued approximately 116,000 H-1B visas, 26,000 H-2B visas, 41,000 L-1 visas, and 133,000 J-1 visas (in
al program categories). In addition, DOS issued approximately 135,000 visas for accompanying family
members in these categories. Taking into account the fraction of J visa exchange visitors represented by
the suspended program categories and the proportion of family members of H-1B, H-2B, and J visitors
who would be covered, this proclamation could result in around 360,000 aliens being unable to obtain
nonimmigrant visas.
Because this proclamation does not apply to aliens already in the United States or those who have valid
nonimmigrant visas, it does not include those applying for a change of status from within the United
States. For example, foreign students on F-1 visas pursuing work authorization through the Optional
Practical Training
(OPT) program, or F-1 students or J-1 physicians wishing to change to H-1B status are
not included. In addition, aliens overseas applying for F-1 student visas or J-1 exchange visitor visas in
the following categories are not included: physician, government visitor, international visitor, professor,
research scholar, short-term scholar, specialist, and student. Temporary agricultural workers on H-2A
visas are also not included.

Author Information

Jill H. Wilson

Analyst in Immigration Policy

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