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Articles Posted in Executive Action

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In this blog post we would like to report on a new executive order recently signed by President Donald Trump on August 3, 2020, entitled “Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers,” which carries implications for temporary foreign workers, especially those whose job depends on or was created by a federal government contract.


What is the order all about?

The executive order was passed to create increased opportunities for American workers to compete in the job market, especially during the difficult economic crisis created by COVID-19.  The order directs the heads of federal agencies to review federal contracts to assess any “negative impact” that the hiring of temporary foreign workers has had on American workers. The order states, “when employers trade American jobs for temporary foreign labor, for example, it reduces opportunities for U.S. workers in a manner inconsistent with the role guest-worker programs are meant to play in the Nation’s economy.”

Specifically, the executive order calls upon departments and agencies to review federal contracts and hiring practices of temporary foreign workers in fiscal year 2018 and 2019 to assess “whether contractors (including subcontractors) used temporary foreign labor for contracts performed in the United States and if so…whether opportunities for U.S. workers were affected by such hiring…”

Most importantly, section three of the executive order requires the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security to take action within 45 days (by September 17) to protect the jobs of American workers and insulate them from any negative effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa workers specifically. The order grants DHS and DOL broad discretion to introduce new measures that could negatively affect H-1B employers. While these measures are yet to be seen, we believe this may signal the proposal of additional regulations to prevent the displacement of U.S. workers in the future.

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In this blog post we share with our readers several new developments in immigration relating to COVID-19.

At a Glance: What’s in This Blog?

  • DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations
  • Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services
  • DOS Releases SEVP Online Course Guidance for F and M Students for Fall 2020
  • When will the Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry for the Schengen Countries be Lifted?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market?

DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations


We are pleased to report that on July 24, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement confirming that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved a one-month extension for medical examinations conducted between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020. As many of you know, medical examinations for immigrant visa applicants are valid for a maximum of six months.

The Department of State has advised applicants (1) who were unable to travel on an issued visa, or (2) who obtained a medical examination but did not receive a visa, to contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issued or is adjudicating your visa application to determine whether you may be issued or reissued a visa for one additional month. Applicants who are unable to travel within one additional month, should consider waiting until they are able to travel to obtain a new, full validity medical examination and visa.


Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services

In March 2020 the Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. On July 14, 2020 the Department of State released information on its webpage notifying the public that resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by post basis, in coordination with the Department’s Diplomacy Strong framework to safely return personnel to Department facilities. With that being said, the Department of State cannot provide a specific date for when each Consular post will return to processing at pre-Covid workload levels. Applicants are advised to monitor each individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status, and updates on which services they are currently offering.

As always, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will continue to provide emergency and critical visa services.

The DOS has also stated that MRV fees are valid and may be used to schedule a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.

  • For more information about this announcement and FAQs please click here.
  • For a list of Embassies and Consular webpages click here.

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Great news! The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for August 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts August 2020

For Family-Sponsored Filings:
In the F2A category, there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart.  However, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart.  This means that applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for August 2020.

For all the other family-sponsored preference categories, you must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2020.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
For all employment-based preference categories, you must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2020.

August Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories

According to the Department of State’s August Visa Bulletin, the following cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries remain current during the month of August except for China and India. EB-1 China will advance by almost six months to February 8, 2018, while EB-1 India will advance by nine months to February 8, 2018.
  • EB-2: All countries except EB-2 China and India remain current. EB-2 China will advance by more than two months to January 15, 2016, and EB-2 India will remain at July 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except EB-3 India and China will advance by almost a full year to April 1, 2019. Cutoff dates for EB-3 China will advance by almost 8 months to February 15, 2017, and for India by four months to October 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: EB-5 India will remain current, joining all other countries except for EB-5 China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by two weeks to August 8, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by more than two months to July 22, 2017

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UPDATE: Please see our blog post here for the complete details of the newly released order. 

Today, Monday June 22, 2020, President Trump is expected to sign a new executive order that will extend his previous April 22nd order set to expire today, and will extend restrictions to apply to H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J foreign workers to protect American jobs as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 lockdowns nationwide. The new executive order is expected to pause new H-1B visa petitions for foreign workers, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, certain J work and education exchange visitor visas, and L executive transfer visas for managers of multinational corporations. The President confirmed issuance of the order in a recent interview with Fox News.

The executive order is expected to be in effect until at least the end of the year and will not impact those who have already been issued or approved an H, L, or J visa.

Although the executive order has not yet been released to the public, a senior official from the Trump administration has spoken to the media on condition of anonymity confirming the issuance of the order. The official stated that the administration has justified issuance of the new order as a way to eliminate competition with foreign workers and make jobs available to American workers during this pandemic.

To read the April 22nd proclamation click here.


Are there any exemptions?


Yes. The order will include a number of exemptions for food processing workers seeking H-2B visas, H-2A agricultural workers, health care professionals working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, J-1 medical physicians, cases that are deemed in the national interest, as well as all other exemptions originally included in the April 22nd Presidential proclamation which are as follows:

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On May 7th just days after the President signed his controversial April 22nd executive order limiting the immigration of certain aliens to the United States for 60 days, Republican senators rallied together to urge the President to pass more immigration restrictions—this time targeting nonimmigrant foreign workers.

Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Josh Hawley of Missouri fired off an impassioned plea to the President asking him to suspend all new guest worker visas for a period of 60 days, and certain categories of new guest worker visas for at least the next year until unemployment levels have returned to normal.

In their letter, the Senators justified their request stating that, “the United States admits more than one million nonimmigrant guest workers every year, and there is no reason to admit most such workers when our unemployment is so high.” The letter continued “given the extreme lack of available jobs for American job-seekers as portions of our economic begin to reopen, it defies common sense to admit additional foreign guest workers to compete for such limited employment.”

The Senators praised the President for passing the April 22nd proclamation but said that more needs to be done because guest worker programs “remain a serious threat to the U.S. labor market’s recovery.”

The Senators said that exceptions to the 60-day suspension should be rare and limited to time-sensitive industries such as agriculture and issued only on a case-by-case basis when the employer can demonstrate that they have been unable to find Americans to take the jobs.

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Yesterday evening, President Donald Trump made an unusual announcement via twitter stating, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy [COVID-19], as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporary suspend immigration into the United States!”

Since that tweet, no executive order has been released by the White House and no details have been provided relating to what that executive order might include, who might be affected, and how long the temporary suspension might last.

According to NPR, an official from the Department of Justice reported that the draft executive order is currently under review by the Office of Legal Counsel.

Is it worth noting that at present United States Consulates and Embassies abroad have already suspended routine visa processing and are not taking appointments for visa interviews until further notice. USCIS is still accepting and adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits as usual, however USCIS field offices, ASC offices, and asylum offices are closed to the public until May 3rd.

Responding to the President’s tweet, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said today in a statement that the President, “is committed to protecting the health and economic well-being of American citizens as we face unprecedented time,” she continued, “As President Trump has said, ‘Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African American and Latino workers. At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary.”

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Several weeks ago, the President signed an executive order preventing undocumented immigrants from applying for asylum.

On Monday, a federal judge from San Francisco issued a nationwide injunction, forcing the government to continue to accept asylum claims by undocumented immigrants, regardless of where or how they entered the United States. As a result, the President’s executive order will be suspended until a decision is reached by the court in the lawsuit East Bay Sanctuary Covenant et al., v. Donald J. Trump, et al.,

The President hoped that his executive order would curb illegal immigration at the Southern border, ahead of the arrival of a large immigrant caravan from Central America.

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On November 9, 2018, the President unveiled a new executive order, this time targeting asylum seekers from Central America.

Over the last few weeks, a large caravan of immigrants from Central America, bound for the United States, has made headlines. In a recent campaign ad, the Trump administration depicted individuals forming part of the immigrant caravan as criminals and violent gang members.

The President has not shied away from commenting on the caravan. In an October tweet, when news first spread of the caravan, the President said, “In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught—and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!”

Trump is now delivering on his promise. Trump has now signed an executive order to temporarily suspend the entry of certain aliens entering through the southern border.

The executive order reads:

Under this suspension, aliens entering through the southern border, even those without proper documentation, may, consistent with this proclamation, avail themselves of our asylum system, provided that they properly present themselves for inspection at a port of entry.  In anticipation of a large group of aliens arriving in the coming weeks, I am directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to commit additional resources to support our ports of entry at the southern border to assist in processing those aliens — and all others arriving at our ports of entry — as efficiently as possible.

But aliens who enter the United States unlawfully through the southern border …. will be ineligible to be granted asylum …. Those aliens may, however, still seek other forms of protection from persecution or torture.

Who does the Executive Order apply to:

Aliens who enter the United States across the international boundary between the United States and Mexico after November 9, 2018. The suspension will expire 90 days after November 9, 2018, or the date on which an agreement permits the United States to remove aliens to Mexico.

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The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has spoken. In their unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of judges held that the President’s decision to rescind the DACA program by way of executive order was arbitrary and capricious.

After a long and contentious hearing in the case, Regents of the University of California v. the United States Department of Homeland Security, the judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, were ultimately convinced that the government’s decision to rescind the DACA program, “was motivated by unconstitutional racial animus in violation of the Equal Protection component of the Fifth Amendment.”

The Court further decided to leave a preliminary injunction in place to give the district court an opportunity to consider whether the Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Equal Protection claim against the government.

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Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

USCIS has finally announced that the H-1B computer-generated lottery took place on April 11, 2017 to select the necessary petitions to meet the 65,000 visa cap for beneficiaries holding a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, as well as the 20,000 visa cap for beneficiaries holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The announcement came a bit late this H-1B season, but you can now rest easy knowing that it has taken place.   On April 7th USCIS announced that they had received more than enough H-1B petitions necessary for fiscal year 2018. USCIS disclosed that they received 199,000 H-1B petitions this filing year.

Our office has already received 3 receipt notices for the “master’s” cap or advanced degree exemption, and 2 receipt notices for the “regular” cap as of April 20, 2017. 

USCIS will continue to mail receipt notices for selected petitions throughout the month of April and likely into early May.

If your petitioner has been monitoring their bank account closely and has noticed that the filing fees were charged to the account, that means that the H-1B petition was selected. Even if the filing fees have not yet been charged to your petitioner’s bank account, that does not mean that your H-1B petition was not selected. H-1B applicants must wait patiently to see if they were selected in this year’s lottery.

USCIS will not begin mailing out unselected H-1B petitions until around June through the month of July.

As a reminder, premium processing for H-1B petitions was suspended on March 3rd and will remain suspended for up to six months.

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