How Does the U.S. Travel Ban Impact H-1B, L-1, F-1, EB-2, EB-3, and Related Visa Holders?
According to figures from the U.S. State Department, roughly 9 million nonimmigrant visas are issued each year. Foreigners come to the United States for work and education purposes and are required to meet various requirements put in place by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the rules can change quickly and without notice.
On June 22, President Trump released a proclamation that acts as a new travel ban on several categories of temporary visas and green cards. To clear up confusion about the announcement, the administration had to release an amendment shortly after. Here is how the new travel ban, which went into effect on June 24 and ends December 31, 2020, impacts different visa categories.
H-1B & H-4 Visas
The new travel ban will restrict the entry of anyone into the U.S. on an H-1B or H-4 visa unless that person had a valid visa stamp on or before June 24, 2020. If an individual with H-1B or H-4 status was already in the U.S., they will not be impacted by the new ban as long as they don’t leave the country. In fact, the guidance says they can travel outside the U.S. and return with this status, although this could pose a risk. Current H-1B and H-4 visa holders are also eligible for in-country extensions, change of status, and change of employers.
To qualify for an H-1B visa, the applicant must possess a U.S. bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Having this designation allows the holder to work in a “specialty occupation” in increments of three years for a total of six years, with further extensions in some circumstances.
A dependent of an H-1B visa holder can apply to obtain an H-4 visa, but they cannot work in the U.S. unless the H-1B visa holder has also been approved for an I-140 (green card).
The new travel ban creates issues with the annual H-1B cap. Just 85,000 of these visas are issued annually. The new visa recipients are notified in March but cannot begin work in the U.S. until October 1. Because of the ban, these recipients won’t be able to enter the country until January 1 at the earliest.
L-1 & L-2 Visas
Unless you already had a valid visa stamp on June 24, the June ban restricts U.S. entry of individuals on L-1 and L-2 visas. If you were already in the U.S. with either of these visas, you won’t be impacted by the ban. The USCIS also states that valid visa holders can leave and return to the country, but this could be risky. Further, anyone with a valid L-1 or L-2 visa remains eligible for in-country extensions, change of status, and change of employers.
To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must have worked for a parent, subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate of a U.S. company for a minimum of one year out of the past three. L-1A visas are granted to managers and senior executives, and L-1B visas are granted to specialized knowledge employees. There is no cap on either number of visas granted each year, but an L-1A visa holder is limited to seven years total and an L-1B a maximum of five years.
L-2 visas are granted to dependents of L-1 visa holders. With a valid work authorization, these visa holders can seek employment in the U.S.
F-1 visas are issued to international students who wish to pursue full-time academic studies at a U.S. accredited institute. The June travel ban doesn’t restrict the travel of people that have valid F-1 visas.
The administration did attempt to restrict these visas by requiring students to leave the country if colleges or universities opted for online learning in the Fall. But, the decision was reversed in the wake of a slew of lawsuits.
EB-2 and EB-3 Green Cards
Both EB-2 and EB-3 are employment-based immigrant visas or green cards. While the June travel ban doesn’t technically impact these visas, there is the potential for changes in the future.
A provision in the June proclamation directs the Department of Homeland Security and Labor to consider regulations or other appropriate actions that will ensure that nonresident aliens who have been admitted to the U.S. or who are seeking admission do not create a disadvantage to U.S. workers. In short, this could be a lead up to changes on the horizon.
This travel ban will likely be the subject of litigation, and it will continue to be a fluid and rapidly-evolving situation.
If you have any questions about the travel ban or need help with any other immigration issue, contact the Garmo Group or assistance. We are a San Diego based firm with a practice that is focused heavily on immigration law, and we have more than 30 years of experience fighting for the rights of clients. Call us at 619-441-2500 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.