Trump’s Final Days: A Last Burst of Immigration Restrictions

A final tally of the immigration rules President Trump tried—and in many cases failed—to get out the door

Jan 19, 2021

Trump announces he will suspend H-1B and other temporary work visas.

The Trump administration has implemented dozens of immigration regulations over the last four years, and even after losing his re-election bid, President Trump showed little sign of slowing down. His restrictive immigration policies have been a hallmark of his presidency, and he attempted to continue the trend despite his lame-duck status.

Donald Trump has systematically built an “invisible wall” designed to keep out two-thirds (at least 700,000) of aspiring Americans. The speed and breadth of these changes to the immigration landscape has far outpaced his predecessors’. During the two-term presidencies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush combined, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued some 10 final rules. USCIS under Donald Trump issued almost 20 final rules before the end of his single term.

It is extremely unusual for an administration to propose new regulations during its final months, since there is such limited time to go through the laborious process of finalizing them before the swearing-in of a new president with new priorities. Between Sept. 1, 2016 and the swearing-in of President Trump, USCIS proposed only two new regulations, neither of which touched on political hot buttons.

In contrast, since Sept. 1, 2020, USCIS proposed four new and controversial regulations that would dramatically change employment-based immigration, family-based immigration, the asylum system, and surveillance overall. And that’s not counting a raft of “Interim Final Rules” issued during the same period, which skip the public comment process and take effect immediately.

Here’s a tracker showing the end result of the Trump administration’s immigration regulations—the ones he finalized before leaving office, and also the plans that never made it off the shelf.

The chart includes regulations at USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — all part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — plus related immigration regulations at the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of State (DOS), and the Department of Labor (DOL).

RegulationAgencyProposed ruleComments closedFinal ruleEffective date
H-1B worker registration requirementUSCIS12/3/20181/2/20191/31/20194/1/2019
Fee changes for Student and Exchange Visitor ProgramICE7/17/20189/17/201805/23/201906/24/2019
H-2A agricultural worker requirementsDOL11/09/201812/28/20189/20/201910/21/2019
Immigrant investor program (EB-5) modernizationUSCIS1/13/20174/11/201707/24/201911/21/2019
Fee to register H-1B petitionsUSCIS09/04/201910/04/201911/08/201912/09/2019
H-2B worker recruitment modernizationUSCIS11/9/201812/10/201811/15/201912/16/2019
Inadmissibility on “public charge” groundsUSCIS10/10/201812/10/201808/14/201902/24/2020 (latest news)
Inadmissibility on “public charge” groundsDOS[Interim final rule]N/A10/11/201902/24/2020 (latest news)
Extension of stay for H-2B nonagricultural workers during pandemicUSCIS[Temporary final rule]N/A5/14/20205/14/2020
Extension of stay for H-2A nonagricultural workers during pandemicUSCIS[Temporary final rule]N/A8/20/20208/19/2020
Fee changes for USCISUSCIS11/14/201912/30/201908/03/202010/02/2020 (blocked in court)
H-1B worker classification changesUSCIS[Interim final rule]N/A10/08/202012/07/2020
H-2A agricultural worker wagesDOL07/26/201909/24/201911/05/202012/21/2020
Immigration court feesDOJ02/28/202003/30/202012/18/202001/19/2021
H-1B wage minimum increasesDOL10/08/2020 [Interim final rule]N/A01/14/2021 [Final rule]03/15/2021
H-1B wage-based lotteryUSCIS11/02/202012/02/202001/08/202103/09/2021 [delayed until 12/31/2021]
Privacy exemptions for background check systemUSCIS07/21/201808/30/2018Never finalized
Rescinding the International Entrepreneur RuleUSCIS5/29/20186/28/2018Never finalized
Special Immigrant Juvenile PetitionsDOJ/USCIS10/16/201911/15/2019Never finalized
Biometrics expansion within the U.S.USCIS09/11/202010/13/2020Never finalized
Establishing maximum stay for student visa holdersICE09/25/202010/26/2020Never finalized
New requirements for green card sponsorsUSCIS10/02/202011/02/2020Never finalized
B-1 visas in lieu of H-1BsDOS10/21/202012/21/2020Never finalized
Biometrics expansion at entry/departureCBP11/19/202012/21/2020Never finalized
Inadmissibility and deportability on “public charge” groundsDOJNever proposed
Requirements for filing motions and appealsUSCISNever proposed
Electronic processing of immigration applicationsUSCISNever proposed
Rescinding work permits for H-4 spousesUSCISNever proposed
Changes to the medical certification for disability exceptionsUSCISNever proposed
Visa security program fee changesICENever proposed
Changing “Adjustment of Status” to end concurrent filingsUSCISNever proposed
New requirements for USCIS-approved doctorsUSCISNever proposed
Eligibility of “Designated School Officials”ICENever proposed
Immigrant investor program (EB-5) regional centersUSCISNever proposed
Changing Optional Practical Training for international studentsICENever proposed
Changes to tourist and business travel visasCBPNever proposed
Restricting unlawful presence waiversUSCISNever proposed
Unlawful presence rule for temporary visa holdersUSCISNever proposed
L-1 multinational employee visa changesUSCISNever proposed
U visa eligibility for crime victimsUSCISNever proposed
Asylum-related regulations:
Treatment of children crossing the border (Flores)ICE9/7/201811/6/20188/23/201910/22/2019 (blocked in court)
Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications (Southern Border)DOJ/USCIS[Interim final rule]N/A07/16/202007/16/2020
Removing 30-day processing for asylum-seeker work permitsUSCIS09/09/201911/08/201906/22/202008/21/2020
Restricting work permits for asylum seekersUSCIS11/14/201901/13/202006/26/202008/25/2020 (partially blocked in court)
Asylum Interview Interpreter RequirementUSCIS[Temporary final rule]N/AN/A9/23/2020
Southern Border expulsionsCDC03/24/2020 [Interim final rule]N/A09/11/2020 [Final rule]10/13/2020
Asylum Cooperative Agreements with Third CountriesDOJ/USCIS[Interim final rule]N/A11/19/202011/19/2020
Procedures for Asylum and Bars to Asylum EligibilityDOJ/USCIS12/19/20191/21/202010/21/202011/20/2020 (blocked in court)
De facto asylum banDOJ/USCIS06/15/202008/14/202012/11/202001/11/2021 (blocked in court)
Transit banDOJ/USCIS06/16/2019 [Interim final rule]N/A12/17/2020 [Final rule]01/19/2021
Security Bars and ProcessingDOJ/USCIS07/09/202008/10/202012/23/202001/22/2021
Eliminating work permits for individuals under removal ordersUSCIS11/19/202012/21/2020Never finalized
Security Bars and Processing due to COVID-19DOJ/USCISNever proposed
Limiting discretionary work permits and paroleUSCISNever proposed

Note: this chart doesn’t include non-regulatory actions, like the extension of the immigrant and temporary worker entry bans after Dec. 30, 2020, and the long-rumored birthright citizenship ban, which would have been immediately challenged in court.

Even if many of these Trump administration measures don’t prevail in court, or if they are undone by the Biden administration, it’s going to take time for the United States to re-establish itself as a nation that welcomes people from around the world to once again pursue the American dream.

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