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The US Visa Rules, Explained

On 22nd June 2020, the President of the United States of America, issued a Presidential Order to ban the entry of certain Non-Immigrant Visa Holders into the country, in furtherance of Proclamation 10014 on 22nd April 2020, citing the recession and the existence of excess labour supply in the country, as a consequence of Covid-19, also known as the Novel Coronavirus. This article aims to explain the implications of this proclamation and explain the complicated structure of the US Visa system, and its functioning during the Global Pandemic.

The proclamation of 22nd April, i.e. Proclamation 10014 (The First Visa Restrictions) became legally binding on 23rd April 2020 at 11:59 EST. This proclamation was the first kind of restrictions imposed for people entering the country, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The restriction primarily applied to certain categories of immigrant visas. Those people who were outside the United States without approved immigrant visas were barred from entering the country from the effective date.

The issuance of Immigrant visas halted for a period of sixty days from the date of proclamation, upon which this proclamation would expire. However, it is important to note that these restrictions did not apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States, and immigrants who were coming to assist the medical system of the country in its fight against the global pandemic. This also did not apply to individuals who were coming into the United States for the Purposes of National security. Furthermore, it did not apply to EB-5, IR- 4/IH-4 and the SI/SQ Category visa holders.

  1. EB-5: These visas are issued to those people who invest in Government approved Instruments, with the aim of capital infusion into the American economy. The amount requirements can range from $500,000 to $1,800,000 USD. That is equivalent to ₹ 3,78,14,002 to ₹ 13,61,30,409. (As per June 2020 rates Approximate.)
  2. IR-4/IH-4: An IR-4 Visa is an International Adoption visa, issued to children under the age of 18 at the time for adoption and citizenship. This visa is issued to a child who is coming into the United States for the reason for adoption. An IH-4 visa is also issued for similar reasons.
  3. SI/SQ: These are visas which are issued for special, non-routine reasons, known as special Immigrant visas, which are issued in extraordinary circumstances, as decided by the government.

Proclamation 10014 issued by the President of the United States (POTUS) only applied to a certain category of Immigrant visas. Furthermore, that proclamation was intended for a total period of 60 days from the date of proclamation. However, this order was modified on 22nd June 2020, to expand the scope of restrictions, for people entering the United States. The modified Proclamation extended the restrictions to non-immigrant visas as well.

The new regulations bar the entry of H-1B, H-2B, J AND L category Non-Immigrant visas till December 31st, 2020, with certain exceptions granted under the same order. These restrictions, similar to the earlier proclamation are applicable to those people who were outside the United States on the date of the Proclamation and did not already have a valid visa on the date of the proclamation. Exceptions include to those who are valid lawful permanent residents of the United States, and the wife and children of lawful U.S. Citizens, among a few other minor exceptions.

  1. H-1B: These visas are issued to Highly Skilled people entering into the United States on a temporary basis and are restricted to certain occupations. These visas are issued to those people wishing to pursue highly specialised jobs in the United States and have to fulfil several criteria. The number of visas issued under this category is generally capped.
  2. H-2B: These are visas issued to those people wanting to work in certain industries, which may be of any nature. However, there has to be proof that such an industry has a shortage of Labour and hiring the applicant would not cause any detriment to American voters.
  3. J Visa: J Visas are generally issued to students for short term study or work-based exchange programs. However, this notification does not allow the j Visa to be issued to the extent of foreign nationals working in any related fields under this visa.
  4. L Visa Categories (L1-A AND L1-B): These visas are issued to those people who work in a foreign branch of the same company also located in the United States, and want to work in the United States now for transfer of skills and knowledge which are of organisational interest.

The United States President Issued this Proclamation in order to stem the excess supply of labour in the United States and to help revitalise the coronavirus-stricken economy by eliminating job-based competition. However, these orders have far-reaching consequences for many people who depend on such visas for work, and these orders have led to Stress and anxiety among the affected people. It has also led to families being separated during a Global Pandemic, where people are stuck in countries outside the U.S. and are now unable to return.

Some estimates made from the Migration Policy Institute or MPI estimates that nearly 1,67,000 migrants may be prevented from entering the country. Several Industry Leaders like Sundar Pichai have called the said proclamation as disappointing and detrimental to the American economy.

Nearly a Thousand Indians have been already identified who have directly suffered as a result of these proclamations. U.S. Government Data estimates that nearly 75% of H-1B Visas issued are to Indian Nationals. There are already a few situations of families being split apart, where a member is in the U.S. unable to leave, and their spouses and children stuck in India due to restrictions being imposed.

Proclamations 10014 and the modified order attached for Perusal:

  1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-immigrants-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-economic-recovery-following-covid-19-outbreak/ Issued on April 22nd 2020.
  2. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/ Issued on 22nd June 2020.

Find in detail the affected Visa Categories of the United States Of America-

  1. https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-fifth-preference-eb-5/about-eb-5-visa-classification
  2. https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/your-child-immigrates-united-states
  3. https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/l-1b-intracompany-transferee-specialized-knowledge
  4. https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-dod-cooperative-research-and-development-project-workers-and-fashion-models
  5. https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-2b-temporary-non-agricultural-workers
  6. https://j1visa.state.gov/basics/
  7. Note- Special Visa Guidelines were not retrievable at the time of this article.

Other References-

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