Suspensions of Certain Visa Categories Allowed to Expire
Since June 24, 2020, restrictions have been in place for issuing H-1B, L-1, and J-1 visas, but the Biden administration allowed that ban to expire on March 31, 2021.
This expiration means that U.S. consulates worldwide will be able to resume issuing these nonimmigrant guest worker visas without being required to include a national interest exception application. In addition, individuals who have applied for these visas but had not received interviews, will now be given priority and scheduled for interviews. Applicants who were refused the visas based on the now-outdated restrictions may reapply.
How the Suspension Was Enacted
President Trump suspended the visas because he believed that individuals with such visas “posed a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak.” The suspension was originally intended to expire on December 31, 2020, however, Trump extended the suspension until March 31, 2021.
What This Means for Employers
The expiration was not a complete surprise, and some lawmakers believed that the suspension was beyond presidential authority. In addition, many businesses, especially in the technology industry, asserted that the restrictions did not actually protect U.S. workers at all. Instead, they were damaging to the U.S. economy.
President Biden continues to reevaluate Trump administration policies that affect H-1B visa applicants and holders. In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a delay in making adjustments to wage levels that employers must maintain for those with H1-B and other employment-based visas. If that delay does take effect, the wage level proposal will extend into 2022.
The H-1B program, in particular, is essential to employers and various business groups. However, many argue that the application process is arduous and should be streamlined. They also are calling for an increase in visa allotments. A study by the National Foundation for American Policy reported that in comparing the 2015 fiscal year to the end of the 2020 fiscal year second quarter, H-1B denial rates rose from 6% to 29%. Also, many other countries, including Australia and Canada, are proving to be tough competition for the United States in attracting skilled talent.
Support and Opposition
Jorge Loweree, policy director for the Amerian Immigration Council, supports the expiration, saying “this was a thinly veiled anti-legal immigration measure and not a meaningful effort to respond to the COVID-19 economic fallout as it was billed. It is good to see the administration moving beyond these pretextual bans.”
In contrast, in a letter sent to President Biden, Rep. Josh Hawley of Missouri wrote, “with millions of struggling Americans out of work – and millions more desperate to make ends meet – now is not the time to open the floodgates to thousands of foreign workers competing with American workers for scarce jobs and resources.”
Even though the employment-based visa ban has expired, it is important to note that regionally based travel restrictions are still in effect and will prevent some migrants and travelers from entering the United States due to continued concerns regarding COVID-19.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.