Trump’s Final Days: More Immigration Restrictions to Come

A look at what immigration measures the president may try to push through before his White House exit

Nov 25, 2020

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, but with less than two months left in office, the president is showing little sign of slowing down. His restrictive immigration policies have been a hallmark of his presidency, and he is continuing 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 has already issued 15 final rules, with more likely to come 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 has 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 Trump administration’s immigration regulations past, plus what’s still in the works as possible policies he could push through before he leaves office. The chart includes regulations under development 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) and the Department of State (DOS).

Note: A date with an “xx” indicates the agency’s published target, not necessarily reality.

RegulationAgencyProposed ruleComments closedFinal rule (target)Effective 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]10/11/201902/24/2020 (latest news)
Extension of stay for H-2A agricultural workers during pandemicUSCIS[Temporary final rule]8/19/2020
Extension of stay for H-2B nonagricultural workers during pandemicUSCIS[Temporary final rule]5/14/2020
Fee changes for USCISUSCIS11/14/201912/30/201908/03/202010/02/2020 (blocked in court)
H-1B wage minimum increasesDOL[Interim final rule]10/08/202001/14/202103/15/2021
H-1B worker classification changesUSCIS[Interim final rule]10/08/202012/07/2020
H-2A agricultural worker wagesDOL07/26/201909/24/201911/05/202012/21/2020
Privacy exemptions for background check systemUSCIS07/21/201808/30/2018
Rescinding the International Entrepreneur RuleUSCIS5/29/20186/28/2018
Special Immigrant Juvenile PetitionsDOJ/USCIS10/16/201911/15/2019
Immigration court feesDOJ02/28/202003/30/2020
Biometrics expansion within the U.S.USCIS09/11/202010/13/2020
Establishing maximum stay for student visa holdersICE09/25/202010/26/2020
New requirements for green card sponsorsUSCIS10/02/202011/02/2020
H-1B wage-based lotteryUSCIS11/02/202012/02/202001/08/202103/09/2021
B-1 visas in lieu of H-1BsDOS10/21/202012/21/2020
Biometrics expansion at entry/departureCBP11/19/202012/21/2020
Inadmissibility and deportability on “public charge” groundsDOJ11/xx/2019
Requirements for filing motions and appealsUSCIS12/xx/2019
Electronic processing of immigration applicationsUSCIS12/xx/2019
Rescinding work permits for H-4 spousesUSCIS03/xx/2020
Changes to the medical certification for disability exceptionsUSCIS03/xx/2020
Visa security program fee changesICE04/xx/2020
Changing “Adjustment of Status” to end concurrent filingsUSCIS04/xx/2020
New requirements for USCIS-approved doctorsUSCIS04/xx/2020
Eligibility of “Designated School Officials”ICE06/xx/2020
Immigrant investor program (EB-5) regional centersUSCIS08/xx/2020
Changing Optional Practical Training for international studentsICE08/xx/2020
Changes to tourist and business travel visasCBP08/xx/2020
Restricting unlawful presence waiversUSCIS08/xx/2020
Unlawful presence rule for temporary visa holdersUSCIS09/xx/2020
L-1 multinational employee visa changesUSCIS09/xx/2020
U visa eligibility for crime victimsUSCIS09/xx/2020
Treatment of children crossing the border (Flores)ICE9/7/201811/6/20188/23/201910/22/2019 (blocked in court)
Removing 30-day processing for asylum-seeker work permitsUSCIS09/09/201911/08/201906/22/202008/21/2020
Southern Border expulsionsCDC03/24/2020 (interim final rule)N/A09/11/202010/13/2020
Restricting work permits for asylum seekersUSCIS11/14/201901/13/202006/26/202008/25/2020
Procedures for Asylum and Bars to Asylum EligibilityDOJ/USCIS12/19/20191/21/202010/21/202011/20/2020
Asylum Cooperative Agreements with Third CountriesDOJ/USCIS[Interim final rule]N/A11/19/202011/19/2020
Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications (Southern Border)DOJ/USCIS[Interim final rule]N/A07/16/202007/16/2020
Asylum Interview Interpreter RequirementUSCIS[Temporary final rule]N/AN/A9/23/2020
De facto asylum banDOJ/USCIS06/15/202008/14/202012/11/202001/11/2021
Security Bars and ProcessingDOJ/USCIS07/09/202008/10/202012/23/202001/22/2021
Eliminating work permits for individuals under removal ordersUSCIS11/19/202012/21/2020
Security Bars and Processing due to COVID-19DOJ/USCIS[Interim final rule]
Limiting discretionary work permits and paroleUSCIS05/xx/2020

Note: this chart doesn’t include non-regulatory actions, like the likely extension of the immigrant and temporary worker entry bans after Dec. 30, 2020, and the rumored birthright citizenship ban, which would be 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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