This Week in Immigration: Updates on Recent Proclamations, Executive Orders, and Policies

Update for the Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the US Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak

On July 16, 2020, the State Department confirmed that spouses and children of H-1B, L-1, and J-1 visa holders would be exempt from the June 22 Proclamation provided that the principal visa holder is currently in the US. This means that spouses and children needing H-4, L-2, and J-2 visas to enter the US can now apply at foreign US Embassies and Consuls provided the principal is in the US.


The State Department issues National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

On July 16, the Department of State released new guidance about which travelers from Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland would qualify for National Interest Exceptions. Qualified business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorization may travel to the US even as PPs 9993 and 9996 remain in effect.

Students from the Schengen Area, UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.

According to the statement, the State Department continues to grant National Interest Exceptions for those qualified travelers for purposes related to humanitarian work, national security, and public health.


Trump Administration Releases an Executive Order on “Hong Kong Normalization”

On July 14, 2020, the Administration released an Executive Order entitled: “The President’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization.”

Due to the recent occurrences in Hong Kong, the Administration deemed that the territory was no longer sufficiently autonomous “to justify differential treatment in relation to the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) under the particular United States laws and provisions thereof set out in this order.”

As such, the Administration has suspended section 201(a) of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, inclusive of Section 103 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which differentiated Hong Kong from the People’s Republic of China for immigration purposes.

As a result, individuals born in Hong Kong will now be treated as Chinese citizens and will be subject to the per-country quota for the People’s Republic of China, no longer falling under the worldwide quota.

Instead of having a visa number immediately available or incurring a waiting time of 6 months, these individuals will face a backlog of 3-5 years for a visa number per the current wait time for China.

EIG will be contacting all clients impacted by this policy decision, and encourage individuals to contact EIG directly if you have additional questions or concerns.   


Update: Foreign National Students and Online Courses

On Tuesday, the Trump administration stepped back from a policy position introduced on July 6 that would have put foreign national students studying in the US at risk of losing their visas if their coursework was online only.

Now, foreign national students enrolled at US colleges and universities will be able to continue their planned studies in the US under the more relaxed directive introduced in March, which removed the typical limits for online education in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

UPDATE: ICE has posted updated FAQs regarding a foreign national student’s ability to study online due to COVID.  New students currently outside the US do not benefit from exceptions made due to COVID.
Learn More: In this week’s Immigration Nerds podcast, we talk to Hiba Anver, Erickson Immigration Group Managing Director, about the significance of this victory and what may be in store for university students next.


What We’re Watching: The Form I-9 Flexibility is Scheduled to Expire on July 19

As previously reported, on March 19, 2020, the DHS announced it would defer the physical presence requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) under section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act.After a 30-day extension, a 60-day extension, and then another 30-day extension, the policy is set to expire on Sunday, July 19. The original guidance, including eligibility requirements, can be found here.

UPDATED: On Monday, July 20, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new extension for the flexible rules in place for Form I-9. The new expiration date for these coronavirus-related accommodations is August 19, 2020.

ICE also announced today that after July 19, no additional extensions would be granted to employers who were served notices of inspection (NOIs) by ICE during March 2020.

Erickson Immigration Group is closely monitoring and will provide an update should USCIS announce any changes or extensions to the current status.