From the American Federation of Teachers and Rutgers AAUP-AFT
On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued a new Presidential Proclamation that suspends entry of certain new immigrants who do not currently have a valid visa as well as certain nonimmigrants seeking work-based visas. While it is not yet fully clear exactly how this proclamation will affect AFT affiliate members, we have created this Frequently Asked Questions which we hope will be a resource. Please remember that information changes quickly and you should always seek up to date information from your campus international office.
Note: In early July, the Trump administration issued revised “guidance” on visas for students on F-1 visas. See the end of this FAQ for more information.
What does this proclamation do?
The June 22 proclamation expands Trump’s earlier proclamation to prohibit the entry of people seeking H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 visas and anyone accompanying them on a derivative visa. The proclamation also states that the Departments of State, Labor, and Homeland Security will continue to review the proclamation and recommend modifications that may be necessary. And finally, the proclamation directs certain federal agencies to adopt immigration regulations particularly for the H-1B visa for the purposes of what the Trump administration describes as “ensuring that the presence in the United States of H-1B nonimmigrants does not disadvantage United States workers.”
Which visa categories are affected?
The proclamation covers only a specific list of nonimmigrant visas. People seeking H-1B, H-2B, and L-1 visas from outside the country are subject to the suspension. The proclamation also covers those seeking a J-1 visa for the categories of “intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program.” Other J visa categories such as professor, research scholar, or college or university student, are not subject to the proclamation. The dependent family members of people in these visa categories (for example, H-4 and J-2) are also impacted.
Who does the proclamation apply to?
The proclamation only bars entry to people who on June 24, 2020 are (1) outside the United States, (2) do not have a valid nonimmigrant visa, and (3) do not have an official travel document other than a visa. This means that if you were inside the United States or if you already had a valid visa on June 24, you should not be covered by the proclamation. However, it should be noted that communications from the Department of State indicates that their current view may be that visas in these categories should not be issued unless an exemption applies (which is inconsistent with the text of the proclamation). And as noted below, because of the closure of U.S. embassies and consulates, other pre-existing bans, and problems with visa processing additional problems with travel to the U.S. may arise.
Are there any exemptions to the suspension?
The proclamation does contain certain exemptions to the suspension of entry. But the primary exemptions are for people doing temporary work that is essential to the food supply chain or whose entry would be in the “national interest.” The scope of the national interest exemption is not yet clear but the proclamation instructs the Secretaries of State, Labor, and DHS to establish categories of exemption including individuals who are critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the United States; are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized; are involved with the provision of medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19; or are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.
I currently have a valid visa. Does this proclamation affect me?
No, the suspension of entry should not apply to you. The Department of State issued a press release following the proclamation clarifying that no visas will be revoked under the proclamation.
I am currently in the United States. Will this affect my ability to change my visa status?
No, it should not. The proclamation suspends “entry” and only applies to people who are outside the United States. The proclamation does not cover immigration services available to people inside the United States. However, services available to nonimmigrants inside the United States may be affected by policies or practices other than this proclamation; it is always a good idea to consult your international office and/or a lawyer whenever possible.
I currently have a valid visa. What happens if I leave the country with the intention to return?
Under the proclamation, if you were in the United States or had a valid visa on June 24, 2020 you should not be affected by this proclamation. However, because of the closure of U.S. embassies and consulates and resulting backlog, other existing travel bans, and the administrative delays in processing, difficulties may arise upon your return. We recommend you work closely with your international office and that you stay in touch with your union about your travel plans.
What is being done to stop this proclamation?
Lawsuits have already been filed in an attempt to stop the previous proclamation (from April 11), and additional lawsuits will almost certainly be filed soon to stop the June 22 proclamation. Organizations like the American Immigration Lawyers Association and their allies are working hard to put an end to this policy. There are also many businesses that are working to challenge the policy.
How will international students with an F-1 visa be affected by the Trump administration’s July announcement about fall instruction?
In early July, the Trump administration issued revised “guidance” on visas for students on F-1 visas that further restricts the conditions under which our graduate employees can maintain their student visas, particularly if they traveled to their home country because of the pandemic and plan to study and work remotely during the fall.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is stating that international students attending schools in the United States with a hybrid model in the fall (one that combines online and in-person instruction, which is what Rutgers has announced) will not be able to take a full course load online. Students who have traveled to their home country because of the pandemic will not be able to study and work remotely during the fall unless their university is only offering online classes. This guidance could also be used to pressure students and staff living in the United States into taking courses and working on campus, even when that is not in the interests of everyone’s safety.
Our attorneys are following developments and will continue to update us with advice on how international students and the union should respond. The policy will also be published in the Federal Register; it is possible that the final version will provide further information. There may also be litigation that will affect the policy.
The union opposes these cruel restrictions and will continue to urge Rutgers to likewise oppose them and find ways to mitigate the harm to international students, as well as faculty and staff. If you are an international student, contact the union at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need advice or want more information about your specific situation. We will make sure you hear from fellow students and staff facing the same situation, and the whole union will support you in every way we can.