U.S. President Donald Trump is suspending immigration visas for some kinds of foreign workers for the rest of the year.
The suspension affects work visas that many technology and landscaping companies in the United States now use. The move also affects visas for exchange students and heads of multinational companies. It also affects visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers. But there are exceptions for workers in food processing, health care, childcare, and agriculture.
The Trump administration said the decision to suspend some immigration visas was necessary to protect U.S. workers. More than 45 million workers have reported losing their jobs since the middle of March during the coronavirus pandemic. They have asked the government for assistance until they return to work. Many have since returned to their jobs as businesses reopen.
Business groups, however, strongly oppose the administration's decision. Technology companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said banning foreign workers would hurt the country's economic recovery.
The effects of the ban may not be immediately felt. U.S. officials have approved few work visas because of travel restrictions during the pandemic.
The following visa categories are affected:
The U.S. government approves 85,000 H-1B visas every year to "high-skilled" workers, often in the technology industry. These visas are generally good for up to six years.
In the U.S. government's 2019 spending year, the Department of State approved over 188,000 H-1B visas. Some 131,000 were for Indian citizens, followed by 28,000 for citizens of mainland China.
Only 143 H-1B visas were approved in May 2020, compared with over 13,600 one year earlier.
H-2B visas are for seasonal non-agricultural labor. The U.S. government usually approves 66,000 such visas every year, but the numbers could be higher, based on demand.
H-2B visas are good for up to three years. They are popular in industries like food processing, hotel work, and landscaping. In the 2019 fiscal year, the State Department approved more than 97,000 H-2B visas, with over 72,000 going to Mexican citizens.
H-4 visas are for husbands, wives, and children of H-1B and H-2B holders. The Trump administration's declaration does not talk about H-4 visas but does restrict entry for "any alien accompanying or following to join" restricted categories.
An H-4 visa is good for the same length of time as the H-1B visa. In the 2019 fiscal year, the State Department approved nearly 126,000 H-4 visas. Over 106,000 were for citizens of India.
J-1 visas are for cultural and educational exchange. The order affects J-1 holders "participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program."
The visas are good for up to seven years. In the 2019 fiscal year, the State Department approved over 353,000 J-1 visas. Nearly 40,000 were for citizens of mainland China, followed by 18,000 for citizens of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
J-2 visas are for the husbands, wives, and dependents of J-1 holders. A J-2 visa is good for the same period of time as the J-1 visa. The State Department approved 38,000 J-2 visas in the 2019 fiscal year, with 10,000 going to mainland Chinese citizens.
L-1 visas are for high-level and specialized company employees. They are generally good for up to seven years. In the 2019 fiscal year, the State Department approved nearly 77,000 L-1 visas. The largest number -- some 18,000 -- were for citizens of India.
Finally, L-2 visas are for the dependents of L-1 visa holders. An L-2 visa is good for the same length of time as the L-1 visa. In the 2019 fiscal year, the State Department approved about 81,000 L-2 visas. The largest number -- some 23,000 -- went to Indian citizens.
I'm Jonathan Evans.