United States President Donald Trump has extended a break on some green cards and suspended visas for other foreign workers until the end of 2020.
Highly skilled technology workers, non-agricultural seasonal helpers, au pairs and senior managers will be affected.
The White House has said the move will create jobs for Americans who suffer economically from the pandemic.
But critics say the White House is exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to tighten immigration laws.
Who is interested?
In a briefing for journalists, the administration said that the freeze, which was ongoing until the end of the year, would have impacted about 525,000 people.
This includes around 170,000 people blocked by the decision to extend the ban on some new green cards – which guarantees permanent residence for foreigners. The White House first announced that it had blocked those visas in April, an order which was due to expire on Monday.
- Trump signs the suspension of the green card for immigration
Existing visa holders should not be affected by the new restrictions announced on Monday.
The order also applies to Seen H-1B, many of which are granted to Indian tech workers. Critics say these visas have allowed Silicon Valley companies to outsource American jobs to low-income foreign employees. Last year there were approximately 225,000 applications competing for 85,000 places available through the H1-B visa program.
The order will suspend more Seen H-2B for seasonal workers, including those in the hospitality industry, with the exception of those in agriculture, the food processing industry and healthcare professionals.
The order will be limited Short-term exchange visas J-1, a category that includes university students and foreign au pairs who provide childcare. Professors and scholars are not included in the order. There will be a provision to request exemptions.
L seen managers and other key employees of multinationals will also be suspended.
What is the reaction?
The goal is to get “the best and the brightest” and “the greatest value for our economy,” said a senior official in a basic appeal.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors restrictions, told the AP news agency: “This is a bold move by the Trump administration to protect American jobs.”
But the American Civil Liberties Union said: “It is the exploitation of a pandemic to reshape immigration law, while replacing Congress.”
The new policy is also opposed to many companies that rely on foreign workers.
“With the revival of the economy, American companies will need guarantees that will meet all of their workforce needs,” the Chamber of Commerce wrote in a letter this month warning against new restrictions.
“To this end, it is imperative that they have access to talent both nationally and around the world.”