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An Uncertain Future for H-1B Visa Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t only upended the economy of the United States but also created a climate of uncertainty with regard to immigration policy. Right in the midst of the first wave of coronavirus infections and deaths, President Donald Trump began hinting at major changes in immigration policy, and some of them directly impact the future status and job prospects of people with non-immigrant work visas. The experienced immigration attorneys from KS Visa Law, a premier provider of immigration services in San Diego, explain how these changes may affect H-1B workers.

On April 22nd, President Trump signed a proclamation to prevent the entry of foreigners seeking to work or live in the U.S. This included H-1B visa applicants whose petitions hadn’t been approved at the time. Even before this proclamation went into effect, the White House had already ordered embassies and consulates to stop processing visa applications so more resources could be allocated to helping American citizens abroad. Agencies such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as well as the State Department have stopped renewing visas until further notice.

Although the proclamation has an effective period of 60 days, it also includes orders for labor and immigration officials to conduct research on the topics of work visas and unemployment. Trump has clearly stated he wants to give preference to unemployed Americans who lose their jobs during the pandemic. H-1B visa rules prohibit employers from furloughing or reducing the salaries of H-1B workers. For this reason, some of these employees have been able to retain their jobs, but their visas are now in danger of not being renewed.

There’s a strong chance federal agencies will play partisan politics when the time comes to recommend future H-1B visa policy. As the situation stands, more than 200,000 H-1B workers could lose their status by June, and there’s a chance the Trump administration won’t offer renewals. A major technology business group has petitioned the government for a one-time H-1B visa extension to last until September, but no response had been received as of May 19th.

Foreign workers whose H-1B visas are close to expiring should keep in mind that they’re allowed to apply for extensions of up to eight months. This was the case even before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic in March, but the process has been complicated by the aforementioned proclamation and the various new restrictions. The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that extensions of up to 240 days can still be granted as long as they’re not frivolous, but the timing of petitions is crucial.

Now more than ever, H-1B visa holders and other non-immigrants who are in the U.S. because of work permits should retain the counsel of immigration law firms. The playing field has drastically shifted, and Trump’s intention to give preference to American workers is bound to complicate matters even more. In some cases, an adjustment of status may be more feasible than a visa extension, but this should be evaluated by immigration attorneys.

If you need to know more about how current policy may affect your H-1B visa status, seek the advice of experienced immigration attorneys. San Diego residents should reach out to the experienced immigration lawyers at KS Visa Law. We can assist you with a wide variety of immigration-related issues, including family and employment immigration. Call 858-874-0711 today to schedule an appointment.

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