Trump Administration Goes Further on the Overhaul of H1B Visa Program

The Trump administration, earlier this month, announced an overhaul of the H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers that will require employers to pay H-1B workers significantly higher wages, narrow the types of degrees that could qualify an applicant and shorten the length of visas for certain contract workers.

The policies mainly put new restrictions in three aspects: wage, specialty occupations and length of visa status. 


Under the new rule, which will take effect immediately, H1B applicants will need to be earning a salary equivalent to the 45th percentile of their profession’s salary if they’re an entry-level worker, rising to 95th percentile for higher-skilled workers. 

In the past, the boundaries were wet at the 17th and 67th percentiles respectively. 

The largest share of H-1B visa holders are employed by the tech sector, where they work as computer engineers and software developers. The visas are also issued to architects, accountants, and physicians, among other professionals.

The rule will almost certainly have an adverse effect on rural hospitals and other health care providers that depend on a steady pipeline of physicians from abroad because they cannot attract enough American doctors, who generally prefer to practice in urban areas.

For example, instead of offering a minimum starting salary of $120,000 to $130,000, a clinic in northeastern Pennsylvania, which is considered an underserved area, would have to pay a foreign physician around $195,000 or $200,000.

“Entry-level doctors in rural areas will have to be offered experienced-level wages, which may be more than their supervisor is being paid,” said William A. Stock, an employment immigration lawyer in Philadelphia. “This will further restrict the supply of doctors willing to move to parts of rural America. It will put providers in a jam that they can’t afford to hire foreign-born doctors.”

Specialty Occupation

The DHS rule will redefine the “specialty occupations” H-1B visa holders can qualify for, requiring petitioners to prove they have a college degree in the specific field they are seeking to work in. 

As specialty occupation has become the most common reason in the RFE in recent years, this new policy will no doubt eliminate the hope for cross-discipline job seeking. Students majored in electric engineering will most unlikely be able to apply for H1B under software developer position anymore. 

Length of Visa Status

The changes will also expand compliance enforcement and mandate that workers hired through a third-party firm be granted one-year work authorizations, instead of the current three-year period.

International students and foreign workers have been through a lot in Year 2020. The H-1B new rule comes on the heels of a proclamation signed by President Trump in June that suspended an array of worker visas until at least Dec. 31. Groups representing thousands of businesses challenged that proclamation, which affected H-1Bs, H-2B seasonal work visas, L-1 visas for executives being transferred by companies and cultural-exchange J-1 visas, including au pairs.

The bottom line is even if the rule might get set aside eventually by federal judge, H-1B will still be increasingly difficult to get approved every year.  Stricter rules have become a certain trend and students will face more difficulties and challenges in seeking careers in the future. 

Do not hesitate when you are able to apply for a school, a work visa or a green card. Seize your chance when you still can and contact August Network for your next opportunity.