In October 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new rule changes that will make it harder for applicants to qualify for an H-1B visa and more expensive for companies to sponsor them. Here are a few things to know about the new policies:

  • About 33% of the applicants applying for a new H-1B visa or a renewal of an existing visa are affected by the new rules once they go into effect on December 7, 2020.
  • One of the most significant changes of the new rules narrows the definition of “specialty occupation” to include fewer types of degrees. For example, foreigners with a bachelor’s degree who were eligible for broad types of specialty occupations, such as engineers and architects, must now be specialists in their exact field of study.
  • Another major change applies to any H-1B visa worker who is employed by one company but working primarily on site at a second company. Any employee in that situation could receive only a visa good for one year, as opposed to the more typical three year visas received in the past.
  • Under the new rules, DHS will be able to perform company on-site inspections before, during, and after an H-1B petition is approved.
  • All applicants will be required to have at least a bachelor’s degree instead of relevant experience that earlier could have been deemed equivalent to a college education. The degree must be in a directly relevant field.
  • Anyone working on a valid H-1B visa would not immediately be affected. Anyone who has filed an H-1B visa petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services before December 7, 2020 also would not be affected.
  • Current wage rates for H-1B and H-1B1 visas will be increased across the board to stop workers on the long-term work visa to be used as “low-cost replacement for otherwise qualified American workers”.
  • Starting October 8, 2020, applicants and their sponsoring companies must make sure they comply with the new wage requirement set by the Department of Labor (DOL), which will affect any applicant who has not filed paperwork with DOL before as part of his or her application.
  • Labor Condition Applications must be filed with DOL before October 8, 2020 in order to take advantage of the existing wage rate levels.
  • Both sets of rules are very likely to be challenged in court by business and immigration groups, so it remains to be seen whether the changes are permanent.

Posted in: Immigration