New Executive Order Will Dramatically Cut Legal Immigration

On October 4, 2019, the White House issued a Presidential Proclamation requiring intending immigrants from abroad to prove that they either have the resources to pay for their own medical care, or that they will have unsubsidized health insurance within 30 days of entry into the U.S.    If they can prove neither, they will be unable to immigrate.  The new policy is supposed to take effect on November 3, 2019.

This Proclamation could result in a 65% drop in the issuance of immigrant visas, resulting in 375,000 fewer legal immigrants arriving in the U.S. annually.   Even though permanent residents are eligible to purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act, including with subsidies if earning less than 400% of the annual poverty guidelines (an income of up to $103,000 for a family of four), access to subsidized insurance would not meet the health insurance requirement under the Proclamation.

While this policy in theory applies to all immigrants applying for immigrant visas while abroad, the impact will fall primarily on immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and on Diversity Lottery immigrants.  The vast majority of employment-based immigrants are already in the U.S. when they apply for permanent residency, and additionally, are typically in professional positions that include health insurance as a benefit.  As a result, the new policy is unlikely to affect them.

Perversely, the Proclamation would exclude children under 18, unless they are immigrating together with their parent.  So, for example, the child of a permanent resident could immigrate, but that child’s parent, the spouse of the permanent resident, would be barred from immigrating if their petitioning spouse  works in a job that does not provide health insurance, and cannot afford to purchase health insurance for the immigrating spouse except through the ACA subsidized insurance through the ACA.

This new policy will result in separated families, along with the related emotional and economic costs that prolonged separations entail.  The new policy will also result in dramatically fewer working age immigrants joining the U.S. workforce and economy, at a time of record low unemployment  nationwide and in Maine, and  when our labor supply is shrinking as our population ages.

The administration repeatedly states that it supports “legal immigration”, yet its actions indicate otherwise.   In the span of a week, the administration’s announcement of drastic cuts in refugee admissions together with this new Proclamation will result in at least a third fewer new immigrants coming to the U.S. in FY 2020, compared to typical annual numbers over the past two decades.   This flies in the face of centuries of immigration tradition, and ignores the economy’s need for new workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs.

It’s likely that this Proclamation will be the subject of federal lawsuits challenging its legality.


DV-2021 Lottery Registration Begins on October 2, 2019

The State Department has announced that registration for the Diversity (DV) lottery for fiscal year 2021 will be open from noon (EST) on October 2, 2019 through noon (EST) on November 5, 2019.

The DV lottery allows foreign-born individuals, whether they are outside of or in the U.S., to apply for a chance to immigrate to the U.S.    A person who is selected next spring after registering this fall for the DV-2021 lottery will able to apply for permanent residency (the “green card”) at the start of FY 2021 on October 1, 2020.  S/he may be able to apply with USCIS, if s/he is already in the U.S. and is otherwise eligible, or else may apply with the State Department for an immigrant visa interview at the appropriate U.S. consulate abroad.   The person will undergo the usual medical exam and criminal and security background checks before being interviewed or approved to immigrate.

The lottery is pure luck.  But up to 50,000 people  gain residency each year because they happened to be lucky.

A person who is in the U.S. on a work permit, such as an asylum seeker, who entered the U.S. legally and has never violated her/his status, can register for the lottery and if selected, may be able to get her/his green card through the lottery.   Registering for the lottery doesn’t adversely affect a person’s current status or other applications already pending with USCIS.

Individuals in the U.S. who have been out of status should talk with an immigration lawyer before bothering to apply, since time out of status may make it impossible to get a green card, even if selected in the lottery.

Eligibility requirements for the DV-2021 lottery include:

  • Not being from one of the ineligible countries (see list in the announcement);
  • Having completed high/secondary school in the U.S. or abroad (a G.E.D. is not sufficient); or
  • Having worked for at least two years of the previous five years in a skilled trade, which is one that takes at least two years to become qualified in it.

There is no age requirement, although people under 18 may not qualify if they haven’t yet met the education or skills requirement.

A new requirement this year is that applicants must have a valid, unexpired passport at the time of registering for the DV lottery.  In the past, applicants only needed to get a passport if they were selected in the lottery.  As a practical matter, this may make it impossible for many people to apply, whether they are already here in the U.S. or are abroad, because they may be unable to get a passport in time, or at all.

An individual may only submit ONE lottery application.  If more than one is submitted, the person will be disqualified.  However, spouses can include each other, giving them two chances to be selected (but each spouse must meet the eligibility requirements).  All children who are unmarried and under 21 must be included on the registration application in order to be allowed to immigrate if their parent is selected in the lottery.

Employers in Maine with employees currently working with work permits, such as asylum seekers, should encourage their employees to get additional information about eligibility to register for the lottery.  While it’s a long shot, many asylum seekers have won the lottery in the past and gained residency through it while their asylum cases remained stuck in processing backlogs.

Note that lottery registration is FREE.  Instructions and the application form is posted on the State Department’s website.  Those signing up for the lottery from inside the U.S. should avoid any website that asks for a fee to register, and also avoid people who are not lawyers or authorized by the Board of Immigration Appeals to provide immigration law assistance, who ask for money to “help” with a lottery application.  Unauthorized practice of law is illegal in most states, including in Maine.

MeBIC is available to come and talk with employees at Maine businesses and nonprofits to help them understand the lottery and whether it may or may not be worth it for them to register.  Contact MeBIC for more information.