Hundreds of employers and business groups have signed letters to President Donald Trump highlighting the importance of high-skilled nonimmigrant foreign workers, as the administration weighs additional immigration restrictions amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The administration is considering restrictions to nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary) work visa categories after Trump issued a proclamation in April suspending the entry of most immigrant-visa applicants for 60 days. The proclamation called on the Secretaries of Labor, Homeland Security and State to review nonimmigrant visa programs and recommend other measures “appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

Business groups have said that restricting nonimmigrant visas would only further hurt the economy.

“We urge you to avoid outcomes, even for temporary periods, that restrict employment-authorization terms, conditions, or processing of L-1, H-1B, F-1, or H-4 nonimmigrants,” Compete America wrote in a May 21 letter to Trump and the relevant agency leaders that was signed by 324 employers and business groups, including some of the country’s largest companies. “Constraints on our human capital are likely to result in unintended consequences and may cause substantial economic uncertainty if we have to recalibrate our personnel based on country of birth.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent Trump a similar letter, focusing on the importance of the L-1 and H-1B visa programs. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) urged the president and Congressional leaders to protect nonimmigrant visa programs. And 21 House Republicans wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, asking them to take steps to protect the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for foreign students.

“As countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, China and Australia bolster immigration policies to attract and retain international students, the last thing our nation should do in this area is make ourselves less competitive by weakening OPT,” the group of House Republicans wrote. “The program is essential to the many international students who desire not just to study in the U.S. but also have a post completion training experience.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board similarly cautioned the administration against imposing additional restrictions, stating “If Mr. Trump wants high-tech jobs to stay in America, he can’t reject high-skilled workers.”

BAL Analysis: Despite strong opposition from the business community, the Trump administration continues to weigh possible restrictions to nonimmigrant visa programs as well as an extension of the 60-day suspension of entry of immigrant-visa applicants. The administration has not yet made any formal announcements or released any details on potential new restrictions. BAL continues to monitor these developments and will provide additional information as it becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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