DHS Announces Changes to H-1B Visa Program for Highly Skilled Workers

The Trump administration recently announced an interim final rule (IFR) to the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program, the latest in a string of assaults on legal immigration. This drastic new rule will make the visa for high skill workers more difficult to acquire and will require employers to pay significantly higher wages to H-1B workers. The Department of Homeland Security states the new rule will:

  • Narrow the definition of “specialty occupation” as Congress intended by closing the overbroad definition that allowed companies to game the system;
  • Require companies to make “real” offers to “real employees,” by closing loopholes and preventing the displacement of the American worker; and,
  • Enhance DHS’s ability to enforce compliance through worksite inspections and monitor compliance before, during, and after an H1-B petition is approved.

 

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security have suggested that these changes were made to protect the jobs of American workers who have lost their jobs to foreign workers with H-1B visas. The new program’s increased wage requirements may affect current H-1B visa holders who are looking to renew their visas. If those employees do not receive a large wage increase in accordance with the new program, they may not qualify for a visa renewal. Additionally, the new H-1B visa program will require applicants to have a college degree in the field they are looking to work in using the visa.

Despite the Department of Homeland Security’s statements that these changes will be beneficial to American workers, many immigration attorneys are not sure about that. “I think we all want to see U.S. workers protected,” says Reeves Immigration Law Group’s Devin Connolly. “We want companies that are committing fraud or abusing the H-1B program to be held accountable. But these new rules, which will make major changes to the H-1B program, simply treat everyone the same with no apparent targeted enforcement. The reality is that these changes could very well hurt U.S. companies that depend on H-1B workers to drive innovation and growth. And if companies are adversely affected, so too are American workers.”

With several changes being made to this program, it is important to stay informed. This IFR will be effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, and the changes to the program are expected to result in approximately one third of applicants getting rejected. If you currently have an H-1B visa or plan to apply for one in the future, consult an immigration attorney to learn about how these changes will affect you.