- August 22, 2020
- Posted by: Dan Trudeau
- Category: Visa & Immigration
3 Recent H-1B Visa Controversy Updates
H1B visas were a controversial topic coming into 2020. The COVID crisis has made them even more so, leading to new discussions about the visa and its effect on tech sector employment. These discussions are often based on myths and misconceptions we’ve discussed before.
Significant developments over recent months will have a big impact on both the visa holders and employers for the rest of this year.
1. The “Visa Ban”
In June, President Trump signed an executive order banning the approval of new H1B visas, among other work permits. The move was covered extensively in the media, leading to a fresh debate about the program.
We’re now two months out from the decision. Despite the hand-wringing, and cheering, accompanying the move, it’s had almost no real impact on the program. Why?
The ban was specifically on new visas. It didn’t apply to anyone already in the U.S. who had, or had been approved for, their H1B. The USCIS held the H1B lottery in April. There were around 275,000 applicants this year, with the 85,000 cap still in place. This meant, like in earlier years, applicants claimed all the available visas right away.
In other words, it’s a ban on new visas, signed when there were none available. There might be rare exceptions, but the net result was negligible.
The indirect effect was to once again promote a new volley of attacks on H1B holders by media outlets and political groups. It sends the message that the federal government is continuing to push back against the STEM professionals our country needs.
2. Pushback Against Rejections
Through 2019, the rate of RFE’s (Request for Evidence) and H1B rejections had skyrocketed. The USCIS was turning down applications for a range of reasons they’d never used before. A handful of candidates took their cases to court, and the rulings have not been in the government’s favor. The decisions were based on the administration changing enforcement without changing the law. Since no new H1B requirements had been passed, the USCIS could not change their approval standards.
Moving forward, we’re expecting to see a rejection rate closer to the lower levels from earlier years. This will be a relief to those looking for transfers and extensions in the coming months. That said, we can expect RFE’s to continue, as they’re not affected by the rulings.
3. Going Out of Status
The COVID crisis has led to an economic downturn, with the inevitable job market downsizing. While the tech field has a low unemployment rate, there have been layoffs, with fewer available options to return to work.
If a company lets go of an H1B employee, they have 60 days to line up a new position before going Out of Status. Once this happens, they need to leave the U.S. and can reapply from their home country. This is complicated by current travel restrictions, leaving the affected people in limbo.
This topic isn’t on the public’s radar, but it’s the biggest threat facing visa holders right now. While the government has made statements about being flexible, they have yet to commit to any formal relief. At best, some exceptions may be made. At worst, we get a mix of professionals staying here illegally, through no choice of their own, and others leaving to never return.
These recent developments have been a combination of non-issues, breakthroughs, and new, unsolved issues. As tech recruiting specialists for 30+ years, PRA USA makes sure to keep informed on the latest immigration developments. Contact us to let us know if we can help you.