On June 22, 2020, Monday, President Trump suspended new work visas and barred hundreds of thousands of foreigners from seeking employment in the nation. This action was done as a broad effort to limit the entry of immigrants into the country.
The White House also said that the order was issued in response to the country’s exceptionally high unemployment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), over 20 million people were counted as unemployed, while the unemployment rate is at 16.4 percent, higher than at any time since the Great Depression.
Mr. Trump blocked visas for a wide variety of jobs, including those for computer programmers and other skilled workers who enter the country under the H-1B visa, as well as those for seasonal workers in the hospitality industry, including students on work-study summer programs. Trump’s decision had the US tech industry, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple backing a lawsuit against the move.
Then, just this 13th of August 2020, Thursday, the Trump administration has relaxed some rules for H-1B visas holders allowing them to enter the United States if they are returning to the same jobs they had before the proclamation of the visa ban.
The H-1B visas are non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate-level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.
The US Department of State advisory said, “Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification.”
“Forcing employers to replace employees in this situation may cause financial hardship,” the advisory added.
An immigration attorney, Grey Siskind said in a tweet that this will allow H-1Bs stuck abroad to get visas if they are returning to the jobs they have held in the US before departing. These H-1B applicants should have wages 15 percent more than the prevailing wage. Also, H-1B applicant’s education, training, and/or experience demonstrate unusual expertise in the specialty occupation in which the applicant will be employed.
“For example, an H-1B applicant with a doctorate or professional degree, or many years of relevant work experience, may have such advanced expertise in the relevant occupation as to make it more likely that he or she will perform critically important work for the petitioning employer,” the advisory stated.
Moreover, the administration also allowed travel of visa holders who are working as public health or healthcare professionals, or researchers to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to conduct ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit.
They stated that “Travel supported by a request from a US government agency or entity to meet critical US foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligations. This would include individuals, identified by the Department of Defense or another US government agency, performing research, providing IT support/services, or engaging other similar projects essential to a US government agency.”
In addition, dependents, such as spouses and children will also be allowed to travel if they are traveling with primary visa holders, according to the US Department of State advisory.