United States

In 2018, the United States received 1 097 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), -2.7% compared to 2017. This figure comprises 6% labour migrants, 70.1% family members (including accompanying family) and 17% humanitarian migrants. Around 363 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 724 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

Mexico, Cuba and China were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Cuba registered the strongest increase (+11 000) and Mexico the largest decrease (-8 700) in flows to the United States compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 18.4%, to reach around 301 000. The majority of applicants came from Guatemala (52 000), Honduras (39 000) and El Salvador (34 000). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Guatemala (+18 000) and the largest decrease nationals of Venezuela (-1 800). Of the 180 000 decisions taken in 2019, 23.1% were positive.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in January 2019. Under MPP, certain foreign migrants attempting to enter the United States illegally or without documentation through the southern border, including those who claim asylum, may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings. MPP is subject to limited exceptions.

In July 2019, DHS and the Department of Justice issued the joint Interim Third-Country Asylum Rule to enhance the integrity of the asylum process by placing further restrictions or limitations on eligibility. This applies to migrants who enter or attempt to enter the United States across the southern border, but who did not apply for asylum where it was available in at least one third country through which they transited en route to the United States. The bar is subject to limited exceptions.

In July 2019, DHS also announced a new designation of foreign citizens subject to expedited removal that applies to certain foreign citizens encountered anywhere in the United States within two years of illegal entry. Use of expedited removal allows DHS to more quickly remove certain foreign citizens encountered on the US territory.

In February 2020, DHS implemented the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule which prescribes how DHS will determine whether foreigners are inadmissible to the United States based on their likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future. Foreigners seeking an extension or stay of change of status must demonstrate that they have not received public benefits over the designated threshold since obtaining the non-immigrant status they seek to extend or change.

In June 2020, DHS announced a rule to strengthen employment eligibility requirements for asylum seekers and will be effective in August 2020. The rule prevents foreign citizens who, absent good cause, illegally entered the United States from obtaining employment authorisation based on a pending asylum application. In addition, the rule defines new bars and denials, such as for certain criminal behaviour; and extends the wait time before an asylum applicant can apply for employment authorisation from 150 days to 365 calendar days.

Online filing to replace paper forms was also expanded in 2020 notably to applications for permanent residence, applications to extend / change non-immigrant status, and for naturalisation.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is restricting and suspending the entry into the United States from foreign citizens who have recently been in certain impacted countries. While all non-essential travel is restricted, legal permanent residents and foreign citizens holding certain visas are still admitted.

In June 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation extending and expanding the suspension of certain visas through the end of the year to ensure American workers take first priority as the United States recovers from the economic effects of the coronavirus. The proclamation pauses several job-related non-immigrant visas, including H-1Bs, H-2Bs without a nexus to the food-supply chain, certain H-4s (immediate family members of H-1B visa holders), as well as Ls (intracompany transfers) and certain Js (interns, trainees, au pairs, etc.).

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