Green Card Applicants Face Tougher U.S. Immigration Laws
Pres. Donald Trump issued a Proclamation in 2017 restricting entry of aliens in the United States for national security reasons. It was eventually passed by the Supreme Court and made it doubly difficult for foreigners to obtain permanent or immigration visas.
On April 21 this year, he signed an Executive Order suspending green card approvals in a move to help unemployed Americans who are affected by the COVID-19 crisis. He said they should be first in line for any job openings as soon as things return to normal.
The temporary ban was initially set at 60 days, but it could be extended based on economic conditions. The President also said this new order does not affect those applying for temporary worker visas, but that could also change with the ongoing developments. Immigration lawyers and experts, meanwhile, pointed out that American citizens seeking to bring their family or children to the country are also not affected by the immigration ban.
But many are confused and afraid of this. Who are truly affected by the order and what can they do at this point?
Who are affected?
Foreign nationals who are applying for permanent residence visa are affected by the order:
- Those hoping to enter the country under immigrant status will be put on hold.
- If they are in the country under a temporary visa and waiting for their green card, they might be forced to leave if their visa expires within the duration of the ban.
- Relatives of current green card holders and green card applicants aspiring to get one based on a job offer are also covered.
Who is not covered?
The Executive Order did fall short on banning immigration altogether. These are exemptions and would be considered for a visa approval:
- Medical professionals in the frontlines battling COVID-19 and their spouse and children
- Spouse and children of a U.S. citizen
- Foreign nationals entering the country through EB-5 immigration investor program
- Individuals seeking asylum or refugee status, or seeking protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
What about temporary visa extensions?
Short-term visas like the fiancé or fiancée visas are only issued for 90 days, and immigrant visas for employees of U.S. companies are valid for six months. Complications happen when their visa is set to expire, but they are from countries where travel is barred. Or they’re caught in the lockdown and traveling out isn’t possible.
Unfortunately, immigration authorities are yet to release details on how they will handle visa expiration issues. They do advise that visa-holders get in touch with the consulate in advance and apply for an extension. Some consulates may be closed for normal immigration cases, but they will entertain urgent ones or emergencies, especially relating to health, education, or business.
The global pandemic has affected international travel and immigration policies. Consulting agencies or law firms handling immigration cases is one way to seek help about temporary visa issuance and extension.
The immigration ban is set to be lifted in June; one can only hope the President will not issue any extension.