Coronavirus: US green cards to be halted for 60 days, Trump says

President Donald Trump has said he will halt applications of foreign nationals seeking permanent residence in the US because of the coronavirus crisis.

A day after he announced the move in an ambiguous tweet, Mr Trump said the measure would protect American jobs.

It is not clear how effective it will be as most visa services have already been suspended because of the outbreak.

Critics say he is trying to distract attention away from his response to the virus. The US has nearly 45,000 deaths.

Democrats also accuse the administration of using the pandemic to crack down on immigration. The issue has traditionally been a strong campaigning theme for Mr Trump, a Republican, but has taken a back seat during the crisis and in the lead-up to the November election.

At a White House coronavirus briefing, Mr Trump said the ban could be extended “much longer” depending on how the economy was doing, he said.

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After vowing to suspend “all immigration” to the US on Monday night, Mr Trump apparently changed his original plan after a backlash from some business leaders. It would reportedly impact immigrants given temporary working visas, like farm labourers and hi-tech employees.

On Wednesday, the president wrote on Twitter that he would be signing an executive order “prohibiting immigration” later in the day.

What did President Trump say?
More than 20 million Americans have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak, and the president said the government had a “solemn duty” to ensure they regain their jobs.

“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labour flown in from abroad,” he said, adding that there could be some exemptions to the measure.

What are green cards?
They give immigrants legal permanent residence and the opportunity to apply for American citizenship
In a typical year, nearly one million green cards are issued in the US
The majority – roughly 70% – go to those with relatives living in the US, according to a 2018 report from the US Senate
For employment-based green cards, a common form of the residency status, roughly 80% are issued to those already in the country, shifting from a temporary visa to permanent residence