Outgoing US President, Donald Trump, has extended his controversial US work visa and green card ban until March 31, 2021. You can still submit petitions for example for L1 visas and certain other visas to USCIS Service Centers. However, visa processing for many people applying abroad at an US Embassy or Consulate may be delayed. The Trump administration has attributed the extension of the ban to ‘continued economic woes’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The ban had been set to expire on December 31, 2020.
The extension of the suspension continues Trump’s hardline stance on US immigration and now passes on responsibility to President-elect, Joe Biden, to decide whether the ban should continue or be lifted when he takes office on 20 January. Biden’s transition team has given no indication of its plans for Trump’s US work visa and green card ban.
The controversial ban was first imposed in April and the renewed in June amid pressure from anti-immigrant groups, who claimed that it was ‘unfair’ for immigrants to have the opportunity to apply for jobs badly needed by American workers who had been made redundant as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Affected visa programmes
The ban suspends any fresh application for H1B visas, H2B visas, J1 visas and L1 visas, with Trump claiming that the measures will protect American jobs in an economy ravaged by coronavirus. However, business groups have argued that the ban will stifle economic recovery.
Under the same guise of ‘containing coronavirus’, the Trump administration also moved to immediately refuse asylum to people who had crossed the US border with Mexico illegally, claiming that it was justified because it helped to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, according to reports published by The Associated Press and other media outlets, government scientists reportedly found no evidence to support the administration’s claim. The US also agreed a temporary ban on border crossings with Canada, which remains in place indefinitely.
Work visa ban unenforceable
A number of US federal judges have limited the impact of Trump’s pandemic-related US work visa and green card bans.
In October 2020, George W. Bush appointed US District Judge, Jeffrey White, ruled that Trump’s work visa ban could not be enforced against groups, and their members, who sued the administration over the ban, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, technology industry group TechNet and Intrax Inc., which manages cultural exchange programs.
Meanwhile, in December 2020, US District Judge of Oakland, California, Edward Chen – appointed by former US President Barack Obama – ruled that the green card ban could not be enforced against families of 181 US citizens and legal residents who had sued.
Trump’s proclamation extending the ban read: “The effects of COVID-19 on the United States labor market and on the health of American communities is a matter of ongoing national concern.”
“The current number of new daily cases worldwide reported by the World Health Organization, for example, is higher than the comparable number present during June. While therapeutics and vaccines are now available for an increasing number of Americans, their effect on the labor market and community health has not yet been fully realized,” the proclamation added.
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