In light of the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. economy, President Trump has issued a new executive order restricting certain employment-related immigration visas—most notably, the H-1B visa for skilled workers. This new executive order is estimated to affect over 525,000 workers. Since many companies recruit and hire from a global talent pool, you may have questions about how this new policy will impact your business. We’ve answered a few questions that you may have as an employer.
Need help with a work visa?
Ask a lawyer any question about employment law or immigration.
Which work visas are impacted by the executive order?
In addition to extending the existing green card ban through the end of the year, the new executive order impacts several types of work-related immigration visas:
Meant for specialized, highly-skilled workers and used very often in the tech industry, H-1B visas will be suspended through the end of the year. For the most part, no new H-1B visas will be issued in 2020, however, there may be exemptions for healthcare workers providing medical care to COVID-19 patients and coronavirus researchers. Although H-1B visas are currently distributed via lottery, the program may change significantly once the suspension is lifted.
Designed for non-agricultural seasonal workers in industries like hospitality, construction, and landscaping, most H-2B visas will be suspended through the end of the year. One exception is workers employed in the food supply chain, such as food processing employees. Seasonal farm workers (who typically use H1-A visas) will not be impacted.
Granted to spouses and children of H-1B visa holders, H-4 visas are also suspended through the end of the year.
Often used to internally transfer executives or managers to the United States, L-1 visas are suspended through the end of the year.
Typically reserved for professionals participating in cultural exchange programs, some J-1 visas will be suspended through the end of the year, including those for interns, teachers, camp counselors, and au pairs.
Does this change impact employees who are currently working on H-1B visas?
The current order impacts new visas only. It does not apply to employees currently living and working in the United States under an existing visa, nor does it apply to applicants who have already received visas.
When can I apply for an H-1B visa?
Typically, a new batch of visas becomes available in October, which is the start of the national fiscal calendar. Generally speaking, applications can be submitted as early as April. That said, the new restrictions will disrupt this timeline. If you are planning to file a petition on behalf of an employee who will start work in 2021, it is strongly recommended that you work with a lawyer to navigate the process.
Are there other upcoming changes that I should be aware of?
A new policy that will deny work permits for asylum-seekers who enter the country without authorization is likely to be enacted later this summer. This policy will also block work permits for asylum-seekers who fail to file for protections within a year of arrival.
What are my options as an employer?
Immigration law is complex, and there are a number of exemptions to this particular executive order. To understand the full range of options available for your business and your employees, it is best to talk to a lawyer.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.