Trump Signs Executive Order Suspending New Work Visas

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 23, 2020

President Trump has signed an executive order blocking work visas through the end of 2020 for hundreds of thousands of foreign workers seeking jobs in the US. The broad order cited the extensive disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), noting that the overall unemployment rate in the US nearly quadrupled between February and May.

"Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers," wrote President Trump in the order.

It suspends work visas for a broad range of jobs, including:

  • H-1B tech visas for skilled workers;
  • H-2B seasonal worker visas;
  • H-4 visas for spouses of certain visa holders;
  • J visas for workers who may participate in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair or summer work travel program; and
  • L visas that allow American companies with global operations and international employers to transfer foreign employees to their US offices.
  • The administration projects that the order will keep an estimated 525,000 foreign workers out of the US, at least through December 31, 2020.

    Many business leaders criticized the executive order, claiming it will block their ability to recruit needed workers from overseas, particularly skilled workers.

    "Putting up a 'not welcome' sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won't help our country, it will hold us back," said US Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue in a statement. "Restrictive changes to our nation's immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth and reduce job creation."

    The executive order does not apply to those who are already here on a visa. It only applies to individuals who:

    • Are outside the US on the June 24 effective date of this proclamation;
    • Do not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date; and
    • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa that is valid on the effective date or issued on any date thereafter that permits them to travel to the US and seek entry or admission.