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Federal judge halts H-1B visa changes

Ruling says the Trump administration didn’t follow proper procedures

by Andrea Widener
December 3, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 47


US District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White has stopped implementation of new rules that would change the eligibility and processing of H-1B visas, which are an important tool that US industry and academia use to hire international scientists.

A coalition of companies and universities had sued to stop the changes, which they say violate government rules requiring notice of and a chance to comment on policy changes. They claim the changes would hurt their ability to hire international scientists for temporary jobs that cannot be filled by US citizens or permanent residents.

“Higher education institutions and businesses are competing with institutions from around the world for the best minds, and we need to ensure that our immigration rules enhance, rather than deter, our ability to compete,” Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, says in a statement.

In June, President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order that immediately halted all H-1B visas for applicants outside the US. It also called on the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to revise the visa application system.

In October, the DHS, along with the Department of Labor, issued rules tightening eligibility for H-1B visas and prioritizing applications for the highest-paying jobs. Citing the COVID-19 emergency, the departments didn’t give the public notice of the changes or a chance to comment. A coalition of companies and universities then sued to stop the rules from going into effect.

White ruled that the agencies did not justify their emergency declaration, and he halted implementation of the new policies. The government is expected to appeal.



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