US Immigration Public Policy Roundup: High-Skilled Wage Rule Delay, Travel Restriction Extensions, and More

As the U.S. works to rebound from the pandemic and get the economy back on its feet, this is the latest in immigration public policy that could affect the workforce mobility industry.

As the U.S. works to rebound from the pandemic and get the economy back on its feet, the latest in immigration policy that could affect the workforce mobility industry includes the further delay of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) wage rule; extended waivers for in-person visa interviews; the possible reopening of previously denied H-1B petitions; the passage of the American Dream and Promise Act; and the extension of non-essential travel restrictions across the U.S.-Canada-Mexico borders.

U.S. Department of Labor Further Delays Effective Date of its High Skilled Wage Rule

On 12 March, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule to delay the implementation of its high-skilled wage rule until 14 May. The wage rule would make it difficult for companies to hire high-skilled foreign nationals, especially entry-level talent, that fill critical roles in the United States, as it would require employers to significantly increase what they pay beneficiaries. The DOL has issued a further 18-month delay, with the effective date of the final rule now 14 November, 2022.

U.S. State Department Extends Waivers for In-Person Visa Interviews

On 11 March, the U.S. State Department, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance extending the ability for consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for those seeking a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification. Recently, only those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 24 months were eligible for an interview waiver. Now, that expiration period will be extended for 48 months, and will be in effect until 31 December, 2021 as it concerns in-person visa interview waivers. This adds considerable flexibility for those seeking nonimmigrant visas and will allow consular officers to continue processing applications without the safety risk of COVID from in-person interviews.

USCIS May Reopen Denied H-1B Petitions

On 12 March, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is considering reopening H-1B petitions that were previously denied under three rescinded policy memos. A petitioner or counsel representing the petitioner, including those who were previously denied, may request that USCIS reconsider their H-1B petition by filing Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion. USCIS will process motions based on filing order.

U.S. House of Representatives Passes the American Dream and Promise Act

The American Dream and Promise Act is a bill that would provide millions of Dreamers protections that are widely supported by the larger business community, including the workforce mobility industry that employs these workers. This bill would provide relief for legal Dreamers, or those foreign-born children of nonimmigrant workers who lose their legal status at age 21, offering them the opportunity to continue pursuing their careers. On 18 March, the bill passed the House by 228 to 197 with 9 Republicans joining all Democrats in support. The bill now moves to the Senate where it will face an uphill battle to move forward.

U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico Border Restrictions Extended

On 18 March, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that land borders shared with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to non-essential travel through 21 April. The restrictions do not apply to essential travel, which includes travel by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling to work in the U.S.

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How This Impacts Mobility

Employers within the workforce mobility industry often rely on H-1B and immigrant visas when hiring high-skilled foreign talent in the U.S. The DOL’s High Skilled wage rule would significantly impact these hires, especially entry-level hires, who are critical to getting the economy back on its feet after the COVID-19 crisis. The delay will ease this burden while allowing the stakeholder community to further advocate for a solution that benefits employers and visa beneficiaries.

While vaccine production and distribution are accelerating in the U.S., safety measures to ensure that the global workforce can move with ease are critical. The State Department’s extension of waivers of in-person visa interviews is a critical step to easing this process for employers while keeping employees safe. Similarly, the USCIS’ consideration to reopen previously denied H-1B petitions is a positive effort towards workforce mobility.

Worldwide ERC® will be tracking these updates as well as staying on top of the American Dream and Promise Act, and will provide relevant and timely updates to all matters related to public policy and workforce mobility.

If you have not yet checked out our newly-released Principles for Public Policy Reform, where we advocate for a public policy infrastructure for workforce mobility that supports work anywhere, that is agile and that is attentive to the needs of workers and the business community alike, we encourage you to do so. Members can share our Principles on social media and learn more about our public policy initiatives on behalf of the workforce mobility industry here. Should any member have questions, please reach out to our Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy Rebecca Peters, rpeters@worldwideerc.org.