Trump administration extends work visa ban, creating uncertainty for Canadians
Ban on green cards issued outside the U.S extended until the end of the year, adding many temporary work visas
The Trump administration said Monday that it is extending a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and adding many temporary work visas to the freeze — including those used heavily by technology companies and multinational corporations — tossing a cloud of uncertainty over thousands of Canadians, including cross-border workers and their families.
The administration cast the effort as a way to free up jobs in an economy reeling from the coronavirus. A senior official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity estimated the restrictions will free up to 525,000 jobs for Americans.
The ban, while temporary, would amount to major restructuring of legal immigration if made permanent, a goal that had eluded the administration before the pandemic. Long-term changes targeting asylum seekers and high-tech workers are also being sought.
Business groups pressed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, marking a victory for immigration hardliners as Trump seeks to further solidify their support ahead of the November election.
The ban on new visas applies to H-1B visas, which are widely used by major American and Indian technology company workers and their families, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations.
Trump has wanted to suspend the H-1B program since he started the presidency and he is using the high unemployment rate as a result of COVID as his justification...- Andrea Vaitzner, Canadian immigration lawyer
There will be exemptions for food processing workers, which make up about 15 per cent of H-2B visas, the official said. Health care workers assisting with the coronavirus fight will continue to be spared from the green-card freeze, though their exemption will be narrower.
"In the administration of our nation's immigration system, we must remain mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labour market, particularly in the current extraordinary environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labour," Trump wrote in his presidential proclamation.
Potential effect on Canadians
These moves could affect thousands of Canadians. They are far more severe than an earlier immigration announcement from Trump in April, which affected only applications for permanent immigration visas.
The new provisions touch work visas used by many Canadians. Canadians filed more than 4,000 H-1B applications in each of the last two years, and numerous others would get L1 business visas in a normal year, including executives working for cross-border companies.
People potentially affected by the changes were struggling Monday night to untangle the exact effect on their lives. The order left numerous questions unanswered — and even immigration lawyers were racing to unpack the implications.
One Montreal immigration lawyer, Andrea Vaitzner, said it's not clear, for instance, whether there might be exemptions for Canadians on the L1 ban, based on trade agreements allowing intra-company transfers.
Appeasing immigration hardliners
Trump's initial 60-day ban on green cards issued abroad was set to expire Monday. That announcement, which largely targeted family members, drew a surprisingly chilly reception from immigration hardliners, who said the president didn't go far enough.
The new steps to include non-immigrant visas went a long way toward appeasing hardliners.
WATCH | Canadians could be caught in crossfire of Trump's visa ban: