Immigrant visa issuances dropped 35 percent from February to March

Immigrant visa issuances dropped 35 percent from February to March
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The State Department issued 35 percent fewer immigrant visas in March than it did in February, amid a drop in international travel and a shutdown of consular visa interviews due to the coronavirus pandemic.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' MORE announced Tuesday he would suspend all immigrant visa issuances for 60 days, saying the measure was a way to protect unemployed American workers.

The State Department issued 24,383 immigrant visas in March, compared with 37,658 in February and 37,618 in March 2019.

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The drop was partly due to the closure of consular appointments — a requirement to obtain a visa — but that closure did not come until March 20.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, said the drop in immigrant visa issuances in March is directly correlated to the consular closures.

"The drop of immigrant visas by a third shows they probably would've had a similar number to February," said Reichlin-Melnick.

The drop in visa issuances to Chinese nationals was especially precipitous, following travel restrictions imposed by Trump on Chinese nationals on Jan. 31.

Allocations of immigrant visas to Chinese nationals plummeted from 2,392 in January, to 134 in February and 92 in March.

With consular appointments closed worldwide save for emergency situations, immigrant visa numbers for April are expected to drop to a minimum.

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Immigration advocates have been critical of Trump's proposed executive order to halt immigration to the U.S. — as detailed by the president at Tuesday's coronavirus press conference — saying it would initially have a negligible effect, as long as consulates remain closed.

Advocates remain uneasy waiting for the final order for two reasons: It is unclear if Trump will reinstate the order after its initial 60-day period, and whether it will affect foreign nationals who are already in the United States and requesting a change of status to permanent residency.

If foreign nationals already in U.S. are included in the measure, the order is all but certain to invite massive litigation, as current visa holders, their families and their employers react.

"If the ban is targeted only at people currently abroad, the direct impact will be much more limited as long as consulates around the world remain closed," said Reichlin-Melnik.

"Consulates will reopen but the president's so-called economic reasons for issuing this ban likely won't change over the upcoming months," he added. "I do not think it will last actually for 60 days."