Editor’s note: The following is a sponsored post by Kevin Miner, a partner at the Atlanta office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP. This article was not written by the Global Atlanta editorial staff and does not necessarily reflect its views as a publication.
Just a week into his presidency, Donald J . Trump has already issued a number of executive orders relating to immigration and border security that will have a direct effect on high-skilled immigrants and the businesses that employ them.
Signed Friday, one with the most critical significance is “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which directs the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and other agencies to review and provide reports on existing immigration processes.
The order implements two immediate changes that will directly affect individuals traveling to the United States, including those coming for short-term business trips, high-skilled immigrants such as H-1B workers, and legal permanent residents, also known as “green card holders.”
First, it institutes an immediate 90-day bar to entry into the U.S. for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The language used in the order is broad, and the prohibition on travel appears to apply to anyone with a passport issued by one of these countries, as well as individuals born in one of these countries who are not U.S. citizens.
Moreover, the order bars the entry of these individuals regardless of the purpose of their trip or what kind of visa they are utilizing, and bars entry by both non-immigrants and individuals holding Legal Permanent Resident status.
Those affected by the bar who are currently outside of the United States will not be able to return while the bar is in place, and those presently in the U.S. who need to travel abroad will not be able to return. The order sets the bar for 90 days but specifically leaves open the possibility that it could be extended.
Second, the order calls for an immediate termination of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allows non-immigrants to renew their existing visa stamps under certain circumstances without attending another visa interview at a U.S. consulate abroad.
Most individuals applying for a visa stamp are required to be interviewed by a consular officer before the stamp can be issued, but some U.S. consulates abroad have implemented “drop-box” programs for visa renewal applications where the individual has previously been interviewed and issued a visa stamp.
The order will immediately terminate these kinds of programs, a move that could create backlogs at consulates in places like India, where heavy demand has forced consulates to rely on the drop box program to avoid backlogs. It’s likely that backlogs will develop in the availability of visa application appointments, causing delays in the ability of high-skilled workers and to obtain visa stamps to travel to the United States.
Finally, a separate order issued on Jan. 23 freezes the hiring of federal employees, with limited exceptions.
While this order is not specifically directed toward immigration, it is likely to affect processing times for a number of key immigration programs used by businesses for high-skilled immigrants.
The Office of Foreign Labor Certification, which is part of the Department of Labor, is covered by this hiring freeze and has already struggled with maintaining processing times in light of increased filings and cuts to appropriations.
The hiring freeze could result in slowdowns in processing times for PERM labor certification applications, which is the first step in the green card process, and in the issuance of prevailing wage determinations for H-1B petitions and PERM applications. The freeze could also affect processing times at U.S. consulates abroad and could slow adjudication of certain kinds of applications by USCIS.
Kevin Miner is a partner at the Atlanta office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP. Contact the Atlanta office here.