Changes on the Horizon in 2018 for Foreign Workers

The Trump administration has made headlines on immigration since the presidency started nearly a year ago, but one that continually catches the attention of the tech community is the proposed changes to the H-1B visa system. 

Earlier this year (and we're only on day 11!) reports surfaced that the administration was planning to cut the option for H-1B renewals beyond six years, regardless of whether visa holders were in the application process for a permanent residency green card. This proposal is guided by Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" initiative. Under the current framework, H-1B visa holders can apply for an extension up to six years (two, three year terms) and if they have a pending green card application, they can apply for an additional extension. 

Fortunately the business community's loud, swift opposition to these changes and the potential impact on the workforce, tech in particular, seems to have curtailed the administration's plan. For now.  

Removing the extension for H-1B visa holders applying for permanent residency sends a strong signal of "we don't want you here." It would make businesses think twice before hiring foreign talent because there's no guarantee the employee could stay beyond six years. To echo what Representatives Yoder and Gabbard, who both serve on the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, wrote in a letter to President Trump, “we strongly believe this action would be harmful to the American economy, credibility, and relations with India and the Indian-American community.”

Although the administration has stepped away from this extension proposal, it's already made changes to the H-1B system that are concerning to both workers and employees, such as the proposal to revoke work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders or the policy memo to add more scrutiny to applicants reapplying for visa extensions. 

More than anything, this latest extension proposal raises questions of what’s next for worker visas in 2018. Although this proposal may not be moving forward, the Department of Homeland Security is still reviewing the H-1B system; more changes are inevitable. If you’re an employer or an H-1B holder, we encourage you to fully grasp the system, how it impacts you or your company, and be at the ready to advocate against changes that may significantly impact the way you hire or are employed.

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Rachel Emeis
Director, US Innovators Policy Council