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Judge strikes down Trump’s proposed changes to H-1B visa program

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2020 | Immigration Law

Skilled foreign workers, start-up companies and hospitals throughout the U.S. are breathing a sigh of relief after a federal judge on Dec. 1 struck down the Trump Administration’s attempt to implement severe restrictions on the H-1B visa program.

In early October, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security proposed drastic changes to the H-1B visa program, claiming they were necessary to protect U.S. workers due to COVID-19-related job losses. Those modifications would make U.S. companies pay much higher wages to foreign workers while also making it more difficult for visa applicants to gain eligibility.

Rules would have limited number of visas

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland nullified the rules that would have curtailed the number of visas annually issued to skilled foreign workers such as professionals in the medical, science, finance, education, engineering and IT sectors.

Each year, the U.S. typically issues 85,000 of the sought-after H-1B visas often determined through a lottery system. The Trump Administration’s proposed changes would have reduced by one-third the number of applications for such visas.

White – appointed to the bench by  President George W. Bush – noted that the government ignored necessary transparency procedures. The judge ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to adopt the rules six months after the start of the pandemic disproved its claims that the changes had to be quickly implemented without a chance for the public to comment.

Lawsuit filed by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, universities

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several universities, which argued that adequate notice was non-existent in obtaining public comment about the proposed changes. The plaintiffs also said the visa rule changes “sever the employment relationship of hundreds of thousands of existing employees in the United States.”

The proposed changes would have handcuffed start-up companies as well as health care providers such as rural hospitals, which for decades have relied on and employed skilled foreign workers. Many critics insisted that the changes would be detrimental to U.S. companies.