By CARA CHAPMAN
PLATTSBURGH — President Donald Trump’s administration has clarified that Canadians are exempt from an executive order that suspends U.S. entry for certain nonimmigrants through the end of the year.
In a statement, North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, noted that the cross-border partnership is a critical economic driver for the North Country.
She had voiced her concerns about the negative impact the order would have on the region’s economy to acting U.S. Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.
“(The) announcement that Canadians will be exempt from the Executive Order is excellent news for our region that I worked to secure,” she said Thursday.
“I will always advocate for the interests of our businesses, our partnership with our neighbors to the North and the economic well-being of the North Country as a whole.”
The president had signed an order in April suspending entry of aliens into the U.S. as immigrants for 60 days, arguing that it was in the interest of protecting unemployed Americans from competition for scarce jobs and that, without intervention, the country “faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand.”
Exceptions included lawful permanent residents and health care workers.
This latest order, signed Monday, extends the April proclamation through the end of the year and expands the suspension to include H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and certain J nonimmigrant visa-holders as well as those who accompany or plan to follow them.
Guidelines issued by the Canadian Association of New York specify that: Canadians who currently have H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and J work visas can continue to use, travel freely on and renew their visas.
Canadian citizen spouses and dependent children of work visa holders are also exempt from the proclamation and travel restrictions.
Canadians waiting for 2020 H-1B visa approvals or planning to apply for their first L-1, H-1B, H-2B or J visas are also not affected and can proceed with their applications.
Canadians holding other common types of work visas (TN, E, O, P) are entirely unaffected by the proclamation.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas thanked Stefanik for her advocacy on this matter.
“While suspension of these visa programs is generally a negative for economic growth, it was especially important that Canadians not be included, given the high degree of integration between our two economies,” he said in a statement.
“L-1 (executive/manager) visas in particular are crucial for our many bi-national manufacturers who need to share and move key personnel back and forth. The ability to do that is a prime reason they are here, and not having these visas available would stymie renewed economic development just as Canadian companies are starting to express fresh interest.
“The bottom line is that the availability of these visas to Canadians has helped to create thousands of manufacturing jobs here and will now continue to do so.”
Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, said in a statement that the decision to suspend those visas would have had a detrimental impact on the North Country’s economy.
“These visas allow many of our region’s largest businesses to permanently employ many Canadian citizens while other visas are crucial to our upstate tourist businesses.”
He applauded the move to exempt Canadian citizens, since it will allow local businesses to rely on their Canadian workforce as they continue to reopen.
But he argued that the U.S. and Canada need to go further and re-examine their policies regarding international travel.
The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to “nonessential” travel, including tourism, since March 21 and the two countries recently announced those restrictions would remain in effect until July 21.
“Families have been ripped apart, cross-border property owners are left in distress and both economies severely impacted,” Jones said.
“New York State has issued travel guidelines impacting essential workers when visiting for short periods of time, and I see no reason why this cannot be mirrored to reflect similar international policies.
“We need to ensure that our economies can move forward and families be safely reunited, without being subjected to 14-day quarantine when they pose very little risk. I am dedicated to working with our federal partners to find alternatives that address public health concerns about international travel.”
Douglas, on behalf of the chamber, has similarly called for the U.S. and Canada to put forth a plan that will guide reopening of the border.