Since the April 22 Executive Order that temporarily banned entry into the United States on permanent resident visas, there has been a lot of speculation about the possibility that H-1B and other Work Visas eventually would be suspended as well.

It appears this will indeed happen sometime shortly and could initially be in effect for 90 to 180 days.

Strategies to reduce legal immigration have long been on the agenda of the presiding U.S President and his administration. The pandemic and the resulting unemployment rates have further led to the constant examination of US immigration policies as a measure to ease the soaring unemployment rates. The Trump administration has tried to ensure that the limited numbers of jobs presently available are accessed by US nationals first.

It was initially believed that only the H-1B category would be banned under the expected presidential proclamations. However, it is now thought that there are other categories such as H-2B, L-1 and J-1 that will be affected.

The proclamation is expected to ban the entry of nonimmigrants in these categories who are outside the United States, but not to announce other substantive policy changes to these visa programs, which are expected to follow in regulatory proposals, as discussed below. Some exceptions to the ban are expected, however. Among those are: COVID-19 related exemptions, such as for health care and food supply workers, and those employees with U.S. employers who conduct additional recruitment efforts for greater reassurance that they are not taking American jobs.

Possible Subsequent Regulations

Potential rulemaking in the works could impact H-1B, OPT, and H-4 categories as early as July, possibly even without going through the notice and comment process.

Strengthening the “H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program” regulation appears to be a likely prospect, involving a focus on employer-employee relations, specialty occupation definition, and wage levels. Increasing the processing fee to $20,000 or higher is being discussed.  Rescinding the STEM OPT regulation and adding requirements to the 12-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) program are also possibilities.

It is increasingly likely that USCIS will rescind the H-4 Employment Authorization Rule that allows spouses of H-1B holders to work while their green cards are in process. . Employment authorization for asylees, refugees, and temporary protected status (TPS) holders could also be on the chopping block.

If you are concerned that your employees could be impacted by any of these expected changes, please contact Weinstock Immigration Lawyers to set up a consultation with one of our employment attorneys, who can advise on strategies to protect their immigration status.

Source: Forbes