APS News

APS Actions in Response to US Visa Proclamation

June 26, 2020

Dear APS Member, 

On June 22, the White House issued a Proclamation that suspends entry of particular non-immigrants into the United States. We know many of our members are deeply anxious about the implications of this Proclamation for their careers and our field. Here we share the information we have and the steps APS is taking to minimize harm to physics research and education in the US.

Several weeks ago, APS was made aware that Optional Practical Training (OPT), H-1B, and J-1 visas could all be suspended by the Proclamation. Many of you participated in our APS grassroots campaign to forcefully defend OPT. We also worked with colleagues in industry and universities to support the H-1B and J-1 visa programs.

Partly due to these efforts, the final Proclamation was softened. In its final version, the Proclamation does not suspend OPT nor the STEM OPT extension. In addition, the Proclamation does not suspend entry with J-1 visas for key STEM categories of students, professors, and research scholars. Many physics postdocs in the US are international students who hold these non-immigrant visa types, so this is good news for the present. Finally, the Proclamation does not suspend transitions to H-1B for people already in the US.

However, there does remain an issue of great concern: The Proclamation suspends entry to the US of anyone who seeks to enter using an H-1B visa, but does not currently have a valid visa. This visa class covers many early-career scientists in industry, academia, and national labs.

Here is a summary of APS efforts to address the visa situation:

  • The APS Office of Government Affairs (OGA) is working with colleagues in the tech community who are developing a legal challenge to the H-1B provision in the Proclamation, and we are hopeful that the case can significantly delay its implementation.
  • The Proclamation identifies several categories of J-1 that face restrictions—including for au pairs, camp counselors, and interns. However, it is silent on three key STEM categories: “college and university student,” “professor,” and “research scholar.” The APS OGA was informed, following inquiries, that those three categories are therefore not subject to the J-1 exclusion order under this Proclamation and OGA will continue to advocate strongly for the importance of immigration in these categories to the nation’s wellbeing.
  • More than 3,000 APS members—who together made more than 6,000 contacts to congressional offices over the last several weeks—contributed to the defense of OPT. In particular, 12 House Republicans contacted by APS members supported a letter to the White House defending OPT that helped tilt the issue in our favor.

We understand the hardship and anxiety that this Proclamation creates. The APS rejects the impression created by recent government actions that Americans do not welcome international scientists. We know that the presence of international scientists working and studying in the US enriches us all (see APS Board Statement).

We also recognize that we will face ongoing federal challenges. And so we will continue to make the case, working with our APS members, for the importance of the J-1 and H-1B visa programs—and international scientists in general—to the US scientific enterprise.


Philip H. Bucksbaum, Sylvester James Gates, Jr., Frances Hellman, David Gross, Andrea Liu, and Kate P. Kirby
2020 APS Presidential Line, Speaker of the Council, and CEO


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