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Navigating Visas in Light of the Pandemic and Executive Order Restrictions

As the cases of COVID-19 begin to resurge globally, President Trump signed, back in June, an executive order restricting entry from foreign nationals. In doing so, individuals under certain employment-based visas in the U.S. and their employers may be impacted. Specifically, the executive order temporarily bans the new issuances of H-1B, H-2B, H-4, L-1, and J-1 visas for applicants outside of the U.S. (those with approved and valid visas are exempt from the ban). Individuals already inside the U.S. may continue to apply for visa status or seek an adjustment or change of status.

While the entry ban is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, it could be renewed so it is uncertain if the situation will improve next year. In the event that this action affects someone in your organization, below is some guidance that you can take:

  1. Consult with your legal team to determine whether the employee’s immigration status is likely to be affected.

  2. Be aware and provide support. Managers should make themselves available for discussions with affected employees. When needed and permitted, managers could also offer assistance such as a flexible work schedule or an adjusted workload.

  3. Keep an eye on the ever-changing immigration policy. Employers can find the most up to date information about employment-based visas on the website of the U.S. Department of State.

If employers are considering or planning to hire international employees in the future, there are other important steps to consider:

  1. Perform a cost-benefit analysis of the value that foreign workers may bring to the workplace. Foreign workers can bring creativity and different perspectives that could help drive innovation.

  2. Collaborate with your legal and HR teams to ensure compliance.

  3. Be prepared. Employers need to work with HR leaders to ensure successful onboarding and smooth transition for international employees and their families if applicable.

Combined with a global pandemic and a visa restriction, it is undoubtedly difficult to navigate these kinds of immigration procedures. During times of change, it is critical for employers to work closely with leaders from HR and Legal to make the best of the available opportunities to hire the best talent, regardless of their country of origin.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your HR Advisor for support.

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