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Work Visas During COVID-19

The Trump administration, both before entering office and after, has made a point to condemn illegal immigration, not legal. The idea, in theory, is that people need to enter the country legally and, in doing so, bring something to offer –for instance, work experience being brought to the United States to contribute to the workforce.

However, as with anything in politics, theory usually does not play out in practice. Despite how much the Trump administration has defended its anti-immigration sentiments with shades of positivity thrown toward legal immigration, it has proven to be not only against legal immigration but also against legal immigration.

You would think, with sentiments of merit-based immigration, that the Trump administration would be all for work visas. However, the Trump administration has been anything but against work visas. On June 22nd, 2020, the Trump administration temporarily suspended all new work visas.

This includes H-1B visas, visas for students on work-study programs, and almost all other work-related visas. The New York Times announcement states, “The order also restricts the ability of American companies with global operations and international companies with U.S. branches to transfer foreign executives and other employees to the United States for months or years long stints.

And it blocks the spouses of foreigners who are employed at companies in the United States.” Nearly half a million potential workers will not be allowed into the United States until, at the very least, the end of 2020. If you are someone who is seeking to work in the United States through the H1B visa, H-4 visa, L visa, and/or J visa, you will not be able to obtain said visas due to the ban.

Likewise, there has been a ban on applying for Green Cards until the end of the year. This blocks hundreds of thousands of people from other countries from working in the United States. Nonetheless, if you are in the United States and already have a Green card or a visa, there is nothing to worry about.

This ban does not take away your right to live in the United States. The economic implications of this ban will likely be astronomical, as all of the Fortune 500 companies have declared outrage as a response to the ban. Many of their employees are foreign workers who have done a great deal to make these companies great.

Such a lack of workers is bound to diminish the productivity of these companies and, in turn, hamper the economy until the ban is lifted. For America itself: a large amount of our economy will now be outsourced to other countries –because the workers that would have come to the United States will now attempt (to succeed likely) to take their business elsewhere. 

We can see how absurd this decision is for exactly the same reason as the absurdity of denying asylum seekers. Firstly, automation is what takes away jobs, not immigrants. Secondly, we can now test people who are attempting to enter the country with a work visa for the coronavirus.

The jobs that are being lost due to the pandemic are not the jobs work visa holders come to the U.S. to obtain –i.e., High-skill, high-wage jobs (scientists, professors, educators, etc.) Hence, the rationale behind this ban is extremely illogical, and the ban itself is unwarranted.

What might you be able to do as an alternative to this work visa ban? You might be a professor looking to teach in the United States or a scientist looking to do research there. Is all hope lost for you if you do not have a visa? Not exactly. You do have some options.

Firstly, a big question is: “What do I do if I lose my job due to COVID-19 and I have an H1B visa?” Job losses are running rampant. In the U.S., unemployment rates are at the lowest they have been since the Great Depression. Amongst those losing their jobs have been individuals with H1B visas.

If you are simply an American citizen, when you lose your job during COVID, the solution is quite straightforward: file for unemployment. However, the solution for those on an employment-based visa, like an H1B, is not as straightforward as this. For those of you with an H1B visa who have lost their job due to COVID-19, here are your options:

  1. Find a new employer to sponsor you: simply looking for a new job where your employer can sponsor you is your best option. Firstly, you will return to work, and secondly, your visa will no longer expire due to termination.
  2. Get a spousal support visa: We all know getting a new job in the United States is very difficult. If you lose your job on an H1B visa, you have 60 days to find a new one, or else your visa will expire, causing you to lose your legal status and, in turn, put you at risk for deportation. If your spouse is employed, however, you are eligible to apply for a spousal support visa and can stay in the country.
  3. Change status to visitor or student visa: If you are single or your spouse does not work, option number 2 might not work for you. However, you can apply for either a visitor’s visa (B-1/B-2 visa) or a student visa (F-1 visa). However, with a student visa, you must also apply for schooling.

Next, “What if I want to work in the U.S. but am now barred due to the recent bans on work visas?” You have other options, even within the constraints of the new policies. No need to doom and gloom! There might still be hope for you even before the temporary ban expires! 

Here are a few ways: 

For one, not all instances of H-1B visas are included in the recent ban. There are some exceptions to the H-1B ban. If you already had a valid visa before the ban, you are exempt from the ban. Likewise, if you are a Canadian entering the United States under the non-immigrant status of J, L, or H, you do not have to worry about this recent ban. 

Another option you can take to get into the United States is the TN visa. The TN visa is for Canadians and Mexicans who wish to work in the United States as highly skilled workers. For instance, if you are a professor from Canada wishing to come to America to teach here, you can apply for a TN visa. 

Evidently, the E-3 visa was not mentioned as being part of the work visa ban. Hence, if you are eligible for an E-3 visa and you are from Australia, you can pursue obtaining one to work in the United States. Next, you can apply for the O-1 visa.

If you are a big CEO of a company or an inventor of some sort –really, someone of exceedingly great capability– you should not worry about getting a visa to live in the U.S. If we are going to talk about “merit-based immigration,” those of the highest merit seem to get the best deal. 

The P visa is worth considering if you are an entertainer or an athlete. For instance, many MLB players are from other countries. For a while, the MLB did not run any baseball games. As of July 2020, however, the MLB –and all other sports– are back playing games.

You can apply for a P visa if you are an athlete in a division of American sports from another country. Same for entertainers: now that movies and television shows are being filmed again, you can apply for a P visa if you are an actor or another sort of entertainer and need to work in the U.S. for your next gig. 

A great option during this time has been the E-2 visa. Under the E-2 visa, if you are a business owner or an entrepreneur, you are eligible to either bring your business to America or start a new one in America. You are even eligible for this if you want to buy a business –or a facet of one (a franchise)– in America.

For instance, if you are from Turkey and looking to buy a piece of a fitness franchise in America, you are eligible for the E-2 visa. However, knowing that an initial investment is required for the E-2 visa is crucial. This is a generalization –as cases may vary, and prior results do not guarantee future outcomes— but a downpayment here might be around $150,000, depending on the business.

Not all countries are eligible for this, however. If you are from China, India, or an Arab state, because no investment treaties exist between the U.S. and these countries, you cannot be a citizen of the countries and obtain an E-2 visa willy-nilly. Rather, you must become a citizen of a country with an investment treaty with the U.S. and offer citizenship by investment. Such locations include: 

  • Portugal 
  • Ireland
  • Saint Kitts 
  • Antigua & Barbuda
  • Vanuatu 
  • Spain
  • Grenada
  • Cyprus 
  • Saint Lucia
  • Dominica
  • Malta
  • Cayman Islands
  • Anguilla 
  • Moldova
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom

Finally, I do not encourage getting married to a U.S. citizen for the sake of getting entry into the U.S. Such behavior is immoral and betrays the trust of your spouse. Indeed, it is tantamount to abuse. But, if your genuine spouse just so happens to be a U.S. citizen, your spouse can sponsor you for a Green Card.

This will allow you to come to the United States and to work here legally. Not only this, but it will reunite you with your spouse in these especially trying times –no one needs any extra loneliness during a time of imperative social distancing. 

Attorney Advertisement: Prior results do not guarantee future outcomes

We are Gehi & Associates. We are NYC/Queens/Brooklyn/Manhattan/Bronx/Staten Island immigration lawyers. We are here to serve our NYC/Queens/Brooklyn/Manhattan/Bronx/Staten Island communities. We do bankruptcy, family/divorce, immigration, and all forms of law. Please come to one of our Queens offices. Email us at info@gehilaw.com to set up your free initial personal consultation.


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