President Donald Trump extended a ban on a host of immigration visas Monday night, adding restrictions to new categories of foreign workers that will bar hundreds of thousands of immigrants from entering the country. The administration says the measure will prevent foreign workers from filling more than 500,000 jobs, including high-skilled positions covered by H-1B visas, as well as keeping out a host of temporary workers in low-skill jobs. Trump first announced efforts to curtail legal immigration in April, as the pandemic was just gathering steam, and will now extend those restrictions until the end of the year. Business groups roundly condemned the move; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the restrictions could slow the country’s economic recovery.
As part of the executive order in April, Trump suspended the issuance of green cards, which allow foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. with some restrictions and offer a pathway to citizenship. Exceptions have been carved out to allow for some agricultural laborers, specific health care professionals, and food service employees. There are also potential loopholes that could continue to allow au pairs to come to the U.S. to provide child care. “The proclamation exempts those already in the United States, as well as valid visa holders abroad,” Reuters reports, “but they must have an official travel document that permits entry into the United States.”
“Visa processing at U.S. consulates abroad already has plunged. State Department visa statistics show the number of nonimmigrant visas issued each month has dropped more than 90 percent since February,” the Washington Post reports. “Last month, the United States granted just more than 40,000 nonimmigrant visas—which include visas for tourists and other short-term visitors—down from 670,000 in January, the data shows.”