Immigration Public Policy Roundup: New Travel Restrictions and Delay of High-Skilled Wage Rule

Here’s what you need to know about key developments in immigration and public policy that impact workforce mobility.

The world continues to adapt to varying COVID rates, government policies, and travel restrictions that impact the mobility of the workforce. Here are the key updates on immigration, travel, and other public policies you need to know:

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Issues Further Delay of High-Skilled Wage Rule

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule to delay the implementation of its controversial high-skilled wage rule. The initial issued rule would have delayed the effective date to 14 May, 2021. Now, DOL has announced its proposal to delay the wage rule until 14 November, 2022. Worldwide ERC® sent letters of support of the first delay, as well as this most recent delay to 2022.

The wage rule, first released on 8 October 2020, would make it difficult for companies to hire high-skilled foreign nationals, especially entry-level talent, that fill critical roles in the U.S. as it would require employers to significantly increase what they pay H-1B and employment-based green card beneficiaries. The rule came under criticism from the business community on both substance and the lack of input from stakeholders. The longer delay will allow for more stakeholder input and a determination on where the Department heads next on the rule.

Travel Restrictions Update

U.S.-Canada-Mexico Border: On 22 April, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will extend the ban on nonessential travel across the U.S. borders to Canada and Mexico. This extension will be in place through 21 May. Essential travel is considered U.S. citizens or lawful residents returning to the U.S.; those traveling to work in the U.S.; lawful cross-border trade; or travel to attend school, receive medical treatment, or for public health purposes.

U.S. State Department Adds More Countries to Travel Advisory: On 19 April, the U.S. State Department announced that it will add significantly more countries to its “Level 4: Do Not Travel” designation. The increase would comprise roughly 80% of countries worldwide under the designation (around 130 countries). The Department said that this change reflects a new approach “in the advisory system to rely more heavily on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

U.S.-based Airlines Increase Travel for Vaccinated Individuals: Despite the State Department’s new guidance, U.S.-based airlines are increasing the ability for vaccinated individuals to book new flights. Airlines including Delta, United, and American Airlines are opening new flights for vaccinated individuals, with most aiming for the peak summer travel season.

Two-Way Travel Bubble Between Australia and New Zealand: Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing low COVID infection rates, and the two countries have now opened up two-way travel without the requirement to quarantine. Previously, only Australia did not require quarantine for travelers from New Zealand, but now the latter has lifted the same restrictions for Australian travelers, a significant step towards normal levels of travel in the region.

Visa Delays Continue: In early March, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rescinded the previous national interest determination regarding categories of travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland who are eligible for National Interest exceptions. In their place, Secretary Blinken made a new national interest determination covering certain travelers seeking to provide critical infrastructure support. Despite this, a National Foundation for American Policy review found that due to consulate closures and limited processing, most countries are experiencing visa delays. Issues caused by these delays has led to a lawsuit challenging the Biden Administration’s policies.

Worldwide ERC® Files Comment to USCIS on E-Filing and a Trusted Employer Program

On 26 April, Worldwide ERC® filed comment to the Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding “Identifying Barriers Across U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Benefits and Services; Request for Public Input,” 86 Fed. Reg. 20398 (April 19, 2021) [DHS Docket No. USCIS-2021-0004]. We first recommended that USCIS modernize the nonimmigrant and immigrant employment-based system with e-filing, which would provide the government, employers, and workers a predictable and reliable system for filing. We also recommended that a Trusted Employer program be part of an electronic filing system which would help eliminate abuses by pre-certifying immigrant-compliant employers while increasing business certainty in workforce planning and mobility.

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How This Impacts Mobility

The DOL’s extended delay of the high-skilled wage rule is a positive step forward as it will allow employers to avoid further difficulties in hiring foreign-skilled talent while giving stakeholders more time to provide input on the proposed high-skilled wage rule’s future. Travel policies continue to vary around the world, with most countries and several U.S. states setting strong guidelines and restrictions on travel. However, with some areas seeing increases in vaccinations along with peak summer travel season, individuals and businesses are eager to increase travel. For many, travel continues to be a balancing act.

Should any member have questions, please reach out to our Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy Rebecca Peters, rpeters@worldwideerc.org.