Happy 2020 everyone! This is a major year.  It’s a leap, beginning of a new decade, political decision year. As the start of a new year always brings with it plans and resolutions, it goes without saying that, being 2020 a Presidential election year in the USA, these plans and resolutions, specially immigration related, will be impacted considerably by this.

As we go back to same period in recent times, 2008/2012/2016, we notice the trend where changes in Immigration policies and the use of these as campaign agenda material by candidates. In fact election years are High Impact periods for many economic and social areas, Immigration is right there in the top of the list.

One of the areas where we see developments in 2020 is the employment related immigration. As you will notice on the following graph, the immigration portions related to employment and relatives of workers takes a big part on the things to watch:

The Fees:

There is a new fee schedule proposed for USCIS services with significant cost increases. The proposal of a 22% increase in the base fee for an H-1B specialty occupation visa petition is one of these, also included in this proposal is to require companies with at least 50 U.S.-based employees and with 50% or more of their workforce on an H-1B or L-1 intracompany transferee visa to pay an extra $4,000 every time they extend a worker’s visa.

The USCIS also is proposing to increase the fee for named workers on H-2A agricultural guestworker visas and H-2B nonagricultural, seasonal guestworker visas while limiting the number of named workers who can be listed on each petition.Employers seeking large numbers of guestworkers will be on the hook for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars each season.

H 1-B Changes:

The Electronic preregistration for the H-1B lottery comes into effect on March 1, 2020. This new process will allow employers to enter the lottery for the 85,000 visas that become available Oct. 1, 2020, with no need to prepare a full petition and supporting documentation. This may result in less opportunities for smaller employers trying to compete for the visas given the process will be taken advantage in a main proportion by largest companies.

 DACA Decision:

It is expected that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in June on whether the Trump administration legally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides deportation protections and work permits to young, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. All indications are that the court will back the administration’s restrictions proposed for the seven-year program.

The end of DACA will result in an estimate of 30,000 DACA recipients losing their jobs every month. Congress is unlikely to pass any decisions on providing legal status to DACA recipients in a timeframe so close to the elections.

Optional Practical Training:

 This part allows foreign graduates of U.S. colleges and universities to work in the U.S., big changes could take place in 2020.

Recently a group of U.S.-born tech workers, who say OPT is illegal and harms their job prospects, has been pushing to file a lawsuit with demands to stop this practice. A Federal Judge in Washington is already considering to proceed with this case..

OPT is managed by Immigration and Customs, so they have a say on this, and recommendations have been made to review the program. These recommendations along with another proposal to limit how long international students can remain in the U.S., could determine how the program operates in the future. This based on whether the Court will allow for OPT to continue.

H-4 Work Permits: 

The Trump administration promise to rescind a program providing work permits to certain H-4 spouses of H-1B workers will likely take place in 2020.

A lawsuit against the program brought by U.S.-born tech workers also recently gained traction when a federal appeals court in Washington said the workers showed that it’s causing them to face increased job competition. Now back with the federal district court, the case could result in a finding next year that the program is illegal. The result would put more than 120,000 H-4 spouses, mostly women from India, out of work.