September 26, 2020

Volume X, Number 270

September 25, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

September 24, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

September 23, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

The White House Considers Sweeping Ban on Nonimmigrant Worker Visas

The White House has signaled that it will issue further immigration restrictions in response to the novel coronavirus epidemic – this time, to restrict foreign workers entering the United States

The rumored executive order will ban the entry of nonimmigrant workers with H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1 visa classifications.  H-1B and L-1 visas cover skilled workers and intra-company transfers.  H-2B visas cover temporary seasonal workers, and J-1 visas cover work and study exchange programs (e.g., visiting physicians, au pairs, and camp counselors).

The order is expected to impose a temporary ban on workers outside the United States seeking to enter on H, L, or J visas.  The ban is expected to last anywhere from 90 to 180 days (though the administration has signaled a strong preference for 120 days), and would include nonimmigrant workers who were selected in this year’s H-1B visa lotteries to start working in the U.S. in October.  Any order would likely include exemptions for nonimmigrant workers performing coronavirus-related medical research, healthcare professionals, and food supply workers, as well as exemptions for employers who are unable to recruit American workers to fill certain positions.  The order likely will also include a broad national interest catch-all exception, as well as a mechanism for companies to seek an exemption for a “specified reason” (though there is no clarity as to what might qualify as a “specified reason”).

In addition to issuing an executive order, the White House has asked the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”)  to pursue additional regulatory initiatives to restrict the issuance of nonimmigrant visas.  Unlike an executive order, any regulatory initiatives would be subject to the usual notice and comment rule-making process, which takes between 30 to 60 days.  After the comment period, any new rules would be implemented no earlier than 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.  Accordingly, these initiatives could come into effect in as soon as Fall 2020.

The regulatory initiatives under consideration would impose significant and costly barriers to employing skilled foreign workers.  One initiative would require both the employer and the customer to file a Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) on behalf of an H-1B worker assigned to work onsite at the customer’s location.  This initiative alone could have a substantial chilling effect on customers’ willingness to engage these workers.  Another initiative would eliminate the exception that allows science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students to obtain an additional 24 months of Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) work authorization during or after their U.S. education, and yet another would limit OPT eligibility to only those international students in the top percentile of their class.  Other initiatives under consideration would increase H-1B visa fees by $20,000, increase mandatory minimum wages for foreign workers at every level of the federally-mandated wage scale, and narrow the definitions of “specialty occupation,” “employer,” “employee,” and “employer-employee relationship.”  Finally, some of these initiatives would revoke existing programs, including work authorization for spouses of visa beneficiaries under the H-4 visa program, and work authorization for asylees, refugees, and temporary protected status holders.

Each of these initiatives is expected to be contested by American firms and organizations that rely on nonimmigrant workers, including many in the technology, medical, manufacturing, and hospitality sectors.  Enactment will also likely be contingent upon the results of the election.  Nonetheless, given the wide-ranging scope of the initiatives and the imminence of the executive order, companies employing nonimmigrant workers should initiate contingency planning to mitigate the effects of the proposed changes.

As you are aware, things are changing quickly, there is no clear-cut authority or bright line rules in this area, and the aid measures and interpretations described here may change.  This Blog does not reflect an unequivocal statement of the law, but instead represents our best understanding and interpretation based on where things currently stand.  This Blog does not address the potential impacts of the numerous other local, state, and federal orders that have been issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, without limitation, potential liability should an employee become ill, requirements regarding family leave, sick pay, and other issues.

Copyright © 2020, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 170

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Sarah Aberg Government Contracts Attorney Sheppard Mullin Law Firm New York
Special Counsel

Sarah Aberg is special counsel in the White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations Group in the firm's New York office.

Areas of Practice

Sarah's practice encompasses litigation, internal investigations and white collar defense, with a focus on financial services and securities. She has conducted multiple criminal trials and numerous internal investigations into a wide variety of allegations, including mail and wire fraud, mortgage fraud, insider trading, market manipulation, money laundering,...

212-634-3091
Bochan Kim, Sheppard Mullin Law Firm, Seoul, Corporate and Finance Law Attorney
Associate

Bochan Kim is an associate in the Government Contracts, Investigations and International Trade Practice Group in the firm's Seoul office. Ms. Kim is also barrister and solicitor of New South Wales, Australia and New Zealand.

Areas of Practice

Ms. Kim represents major financial institutions and companies involved in the entertainment and digital media. Her work mostly involves advising banks and other financial institutions in connection with banking law regulatory issues as well as matters in relation to internal investigations. She has worked on numerous financing deals and specializes in regulatory side of the matters. Her work for financiers includes acting for banks, entrepreneurs and financial groups, often involving secured lending and complex multi-party arrangements. Ms. Kim has worked on the commercial side of corporate deals involving renown Korean companies.

822-6030-3020