Announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announced major changes that will make it significantly tougher for employers to sponsor H-1B visas for qualified aliens. The changes require employers to pay significantly higher wages, narrow the types of degrees that can qualify an applicant, and shorten the length of visas for certain workers.
The new rules are to be implemented within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is forgoing the regular notice and comment period to ensure that no American workers are harmed by foreign workers during the country’s COVID-19 economic crisis.
Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of the USCIS, has said he expects that under the new rules, about one-third of the visa applications will be rejected. Cuccinelli, along with Patrick Pizzella, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor, announced that the changes were necessary in order to protect American workers, whom the administration believes are threatened by foreign workers being paid lower wages to perform similar jobs. The new rules will directly affect foreign workers; as well as the employers, especially tech companies, that have employed many highly-skilled laborers.
The government issues 85,000 H-1B visas each year. Employers sponsor highly-skilled aliens who are picked in a lottery process, as the number of applicants exceeds 85,000. The selected applicants are further scrutinized by the USCIS based on specialty occupation, the ability of the employer to pay the worker, and various other factors. After strict scrutiny, the USCIS approves or denies the visa. The employer can subsequently sponsor the foreign worker’s legal permanent residency (a green card) to enable them to remain permanently in the country.
Significant changes have been announced under the new rule.
The new rules are expected to have a major impact on employers hiring foreign workers. Immigration specialists expect a flood of litigation challenging the new rules, especially because the USCIS chose to forgo the public comment period before the changes were implemented.
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