New Policy Opens H-1B Visa Path for DACA Recipients
Jun 21, 2024

In a significant move aimed at benefiting U.S.-educated foreign nationals, the Biden administration announced a new policy Tuesday to streamline the work visa process for college graduates, including DACA recipients.


  • Graduates from U.S. colleges and universities, including DACA recipients (Dreamers), can now obtain work visas more quickly if they have a job offer in a field related to their degree.
  • The policy aims to retain highly educated individuals in the U.S., recognizing their potential to contribute to the country’s economic competitiveness and innovation.
  • This initiative is part of the Biden administration’s broader efforts to support immigrants, especially those who came to the U.S. as children, acknowledging their important role in the nation’s economy and society.


In a press briefing, the White House said it would take specific actions to make the employment visa process easier for college graduates, including DACA recipients and other DREAMers, who have highly skilled job offers. Here are the key points:

  1. Easier Visa Process: The government will clarify and improve the current employment visa application process to make it faster and more predictable. They want to make sure people who studied in the U.S. can stay and work in the country.
  2. Eligibility Requirements: The executive order will not change the basic requirements for work visas like the H-1B. However, it could indicate a policy shift to prioritize applications from individuals who graduated from U.S. colleges and universities, including DACA recipients and Dreamers. How this prioritization would be implemented in practice will depend on specific policies and regulations developed in response to the executive order, and have not been outlined yet. However, implementation could involve changes to the selection process, giving higher priority to applicants who graduated from U.S. institutions.
  3. Waivers for Previous Unlawful Presence: For individuals who might be inadmissible due to prior unlawful presence in the U.S., the administration wants to provide additional certainty and speed around the waiver process. This could involve consular officers using their discretion to recommend waivers and the Department of Homeland Security granting them to facilitate the visa process. Overall, it implies a more lenient and expedited approach to waivers for this specific group of applicants.
  4. National Interest: The U.S. government prioritizes retaining foreign-educated individuals, recognizing their value to the national interest. By streamlining visa processes and emphasizing their skills, the policy aims to encourage them to stay and contribute to the U.S. workforce, benefiting both individuals and employers facing talent shortages.
  5. High-Skilled Jobs: As part of the order, the government will also likely expand on the current definition of “high-skilled jobs.” Right now, these jobs are mostly linked to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. However, the government recognizes that other occupations outside of STEM may also require a high level of education, specialized knowledge, or unique skills. By providing more detailed definitions the government hopes to attract a wider range of skilled workers to the U.S., potentially opening up more pathways for individuals in non-STEM fields.


Currently, DACA recipients can work legally in the U.S. with temporary work permits tied to their DACA status. These permits are different than certain work visas, like the H-1B, which offer a distinct immigration status and the potential for a path to permanent residency through employment-based sponsorship.

One benefit of obtaining a work visa for a DACA holder is that it opens the possibility of obtaining a green card through employment-based sponsorship. Here’s why:

  1. Dual Intent: H-1B visas are considered “dual intent” visas, which means H-1B holders can work in the U.S. while also having the goal of obtaining permanent residency.
  2. Employer Sponsorship: Employers who sponsor employees for H-1B visas can also choose to sponsor the recipient for a green card through employment-based categories (such as EB-2 or EB-3). This sponsorship involves a separate application process but can lead to permanent residency.

Historically, DACA recipients who attended U.S. universities and obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher have been eligible to apply for H-1B visas, provided they meet all other requirements. However, it’s not a straightforward or even guaranteed path. For example, many DACA recipients entered the U.S. without inspection as children, which can trigger unlawful presence issues and jeopardize their ability to get certain immigration benefits, including certain work visas. Additionally, the contentious legal landscape around DACA could have discouraged DACA recipients from pursuing a work visa due to the fear of having their status revoked.



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