The Top 10 Legal Immigration Restrictions of 2018


A tough year in review

Dec 28, 2018


Dark Statue of Liberty

On December 10, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quietly implemented a new obstacle for over 166,000 married couples each year: Nearly all of them will be required to attend an in-person interview 2 years after receiving a marriage-based green card, where they will have to prove the authenticity of their marriage for a second time. The coming influx of new interviews is bound to exacerbate backlogs for green cards and U.S. citizenship, as well.

This is just the latest of the Trump administration’s extraordinary efforts to restrict legal immigration. As 2018 comes to a close, here is a non-exhaustive list of the year’s top 10 legal immigration policy changes (not including well-known humanitarian programs):


1. Public Charge, Act 1

On January 3, the U.S. Department of State began to exclude more people seeking to enter the United States from abroad, if they are deemed too poor, old, or unhealthy. The city of Baltimore recently sued to block this move.


2. Public Charge, Act 2

On October 10, DHS unveiled its proposed “public charge rule,” a backdoor wealth test that would slash legal immigration by more than 50%, separate nearly 200,000 married couples each year, and cost up to $13 billion in annual compliance costs alone.


3. Supreme Court Upholds Travel Ban 3.0

By letting the latest iteration of the travel ban go forward, in June the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to block nearly all applications for green cards and temporary visas from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen (plus lesser restrictions on Venezuela). Some long-separated Iranian families have resorted to reuniting for a single day in a remote library that happens to straddle the U.S.-Canada border.


4. One Strike, and You’re Out

DHS announced a “zero-room-for-error” policy toward legal immigration applications, scaling back the ability of applicants to correct minor mistakes and initiating deportation proceedings against anyone who is out of status at the moment their application is denied.


5. Booting International Students

Going forward, DHS will bar international students from the United States for up to 10 years based on any visa infraction, no matter how minor or innocent. A number of universities have sued to block this move.


6. H-1B Visas in Turmoil

Bit by bit, DHS has made it more difficult for U.S. employers to hire and retain skilled workers on H-1B visas, with unintended consequences that may harm U.S. workers.


7. Denial Rates on the Rise

So far in 2018, DHS has denied 37% more legal immigration applications than in 2016, including applications for work permits, travel permits, green cards, H-1Bs, and other visas.


8. Closing the Door to Entrepreneurs

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within DHS, stated that “the current Administration’s priorities” do not include implementing the International Entrepreneur Rule, an Obama-era policy that would make it easier for startup founders to build companies in the United States and employ American workers.


9. Denaturalization Task Force

USCIS launched a new office dedicated to ramping up the number of naturalized Americans who are ultimately stripped of their U.S. citizenship for past infractions.


10. USCIS Changes Mission Statement

USCIS no longer deems “secur[ing] America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” as its primary purpose, having scrubbed positive language about immigrants from its mission statement.


Boundless is constantly monitoring changes to the U.S. immigration system to help keep you informed. Stay up to date by following Boundless on Twitter or Facebook.


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