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Trump indefinitely extends pandemic-related halt on international visas

Dec. 30 (UPI) — President Donald Trump extended a suspension of international visas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump said restrictions on green cards and various types of work visas during the pandemic — originally set to expire Thursday — will remain in place until March 31.

“The effects of COVID-19 on the United States labor market and on the health of American communities is a matter of ongoing national concern,” Trump’s proclamation on Thursday said. “The current number of new daily cases worldwide reported by the World Health Organization, for example, is higher than the comparable number presnet during June and while therapeutics and vaccines are recently available for an increasing number of Americans, their effect on the labor market and community health has not yet been fully realized.”

Trump initially signed an order placing a hold on the issuance of new green cards in April and then expanded it to include H1-B, H-4, L and most J visas as well as some H2-B visas with an exception for food processing workers in June.

H-1B visas grant temporary work authorizations to people with highly specialized knowledge and are commonly utilized in the tech industry, while H-4 visas are issued to immediate family members of people who hold H-1B visas. Issuances of H-1B visas are currently capped to 85,000 annually.

H-2 visas provide temporary work for agriculture, construction, forestry and other industries; L visas are for temporary intracompany transfers who serve in management positions or have specialized knowledge; and J visas are provided for study-based exchange visitor programs.

The order extends the restrictions on visas well beyond when President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office.

Biden has pledged to reverse many of Trump’s immigration policies, including travel bans from majority-Muslim countries and policies separating children from parents at the border. He’s also vowed to reform the visa system and restore refugee admissions to their levels prior to Trump’s presidency.

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