We have been closely following the Trump administration's recent executive orders and the immigration-related bills in Congress. Our goal is to keep you informed about how this activity affects your business and your foreign national employees, while dispelling some of the common myths that are developing in this time of uncertainty. Feel free to share this information within your organization or with other contacts in your network. We will continue to update you as relevant details emerge.
New Executive Orders
As you have heard, President Trump has signed an executive order that suspends issuing visas to nationals of 7 countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen) and bans travel from these countries for at least 90 days. This applies to anyone who holds a passport from one of these countries, including dual citizens. DHS has discretion to admit legal permanent residents (LPRs or Green Card holders) on a case-by-case basis following a comprehensive screening at the port of entry. We suggest that foreign nationals from the seven listed countries do not travel outside the United States. We also suggest limiting travel outside of the United States for all other foreign nationals who are not from countries on the list, and we recommend that employees abroad return to the United States as soon as possible in case other countries are added to the list. To learn more about the executive order, you are welcome to read a more detailed update from Bridge-affiliated law firm Meltzer Hellrung. We have already reached out directly to all of our clients who have a foreign national employee affected by this executive order, but please let us know if you have any questions.
FAQs regarding potential changes to employment-based immigration programs
There have been no changes to employment-based immigration programs (e.g. H-1B, L-1, TN, employment-based Green Cards, etc) to date. You may be seeing media reports of potential changes to these programs, but it is important to note that no changes have gone into effect as of today. Below are responses to some frequently asked questions we have received over the past few days.
Q: If there are changes, when will they go into effect?
A: It depends. As we have seen recently, changes made via executive order can go into effect immediately. However, there are limits as to what policy changes can be enacted via executive order. Most legislation must obtain Congressional approval first, which could take 12-18 months or longer.
Q: What does the leaked executive order draft say about changes to employment-based immigration programs?
A: The leaked draft is very general and provides no specifics about any changes. It simply mandates that the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security issue a new regulation within 90 days “to restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs and better protect U.S. and foreign workers affected by those programs.” There are no details about what changes will be involved and whether these changes will be implemented by executive order or legislation through Congress.
Q: I have heard about a bill that would increase the prevailing wage to $130,000. Is this true and would it apply to my business?
A: There are several immigration-related bills that have been recently introduced in Congress. It is important to remember that very few bills become laws. The recent proposal for a $130,000 prevailing wage comes from a recent bill introduced by House Representative Zoe Lofgren. Importantly, this prevailing wage only applies to "H-1B dependent employers" (companies with a high percentage of H-1B employees). There are several other provisions in the bill (e.g. removing "per country" caps for employment-based Green Cards, allocation of H-1B visas to small businesses) but we will hold off on further details unless this bill picks up steam in Congress.
Q: Will these reports affect any pending or upcoming immigration cases?
A: We cannot say with any certainty. There are no changes to employment-based immigration programs to date. Our best guess is that, if there are changes, most changes will take 12-18 months to go into effect and only affect new visas or Green Cards issued after a certain date. We would caution against changing your immigration strategy based on the current speculation in the market.