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Biden can overturn Trump's H1B visa restrictions with executive orders

With Joe Biden preparing to become the next president of the United States, the hope is that it will soon be possible for bankers and technologists to enter the country on H1B visas again. However, anyone looking for clues on Biden's intentions on immigration won't find much on the new administration's Transition website launched yesterday: it neglects to mention visa issues entirely.

There has also been some skepticism as to whether Biden will be able to make headway on immigration policy without control of the Senate. However, this appears to be misplaced: Biden should be able to change the H1B visa rules using executive orders, says Philip C. Curtis, an immigration attorney who sources the visas for corporate clients. 

"A lot of Trump's changes made via adjustments to the existing regulations and the reinterpretation of existing laws," says Curtis. "None of it was done via the legislative process." 

Biden's potential for action on H1B visas comes after Trump made two big changes this year. In June, he famously issued an order suspending the "entry of additional workers through the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa program," claiming that visa workers were competing against American workers in a difficult economy. In October, Trump further tightened H1B visa requirements with an executive order stating that H1B visa holders needed 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. 

After promising to revoke Trump's H1B visa ban in July, Biden could in theory overturn these requirements with the executive orders he's expected to unveil on the first day of his presidency. The president-elect was endorsed in September by various senior figures in the technology industry who objected to what they described as Trump's discouragement of "the most brilliant people in the world", who were unable to work in the U.S. by virtue of the immigration restrictions. 

If the H1B ban is lifted, investment banks and hedge fund are likely to be among the beneficiaries. - Finance firms typically hire H1B visa holders into technology and quant roles and argue that it's difficult to find sufficient high caliber staff for these niche positions in the U.S..

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Photo by René DeAnda on Unsplash



AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • ju
    23 November 2020

    it is a scam, there is plenty of high skilled workers here in USA and I know thousands who are better than hlb now jobless , my friends, family works in IT field and actually H1b-visa people come with fake certificates and FAKE experience, the company hire them for sub par work and low rate, the rest of course since it is team work we have to work our but off. I was forced by my manager to interview US citizens and turn them down saying they are under qualified, eventhough most of them were perfect fit for the job, the villian is the agency they give vacation packages and gifts to manager if he hire the H1b visa holders from the agency. So why fake interview? well it is to show the higher management that we interviewed plenty of US citizens and green card holders and none are a good fit. So higher management with no choice will approve to take the H1b visa holders.

  • Ch
    13 November 2020

    Every country in the world should ban Americans from working in their countries as a payback for this H-1B non-sense. There is absolutely no evidence of mass displacement of American IT jobs. After all, there is no company that wants to hire an old and grumpy guy for a tech position. You should get away from the computer screen with your nasty comments and start flipping burgers.

  • JO
    J Oliver
    12 November 2020

    " the hope is that it will soon be possible for bankers and technologists to enter the country on H1B visas again."...say again wut??? That's not the hope. Why is it practically every publication out there sings about how wonderful the H1B is while **Completely** panning the American IT workers getting displaced??

  • Am
    11 November 2020

    15th percentile salary is "the most brilliant people in the world", makes no sense

  • pb
    11 November 2020

    About the only good thing that Cadet Bone Spurs did in office was restrict the horrible H1B program. If you're a Wall Street boss trying to goose your pay, it's good for you, but I've had most of my career in Wall Street on the tech and admin side and so many friends and coworkers have suffered badly from 2 things - H1B and offshoring. Both should be extremely limited. They've put huge numbers of US workers out of jobs and continue to do so during COVID. Months ago when we hit the shutdown, I was well along in an interview process, considered top candidate for the job. Now I get that they put a freeze on. The thing is, this is a company that had no slow down at all in work or income. I noticed that they w3ere starting to hire again - except that 90% of the positions had been moved from the US to India. Not like it's a whole lot safer there, and some of these were jobs that would have heavy interaction with US workers and management. Profitable company, too. HR finally told me that the job I was waiting for had been moved to India - which clearly made no sense to him either.

    At lots of non wall street firms, where the firms are making money, and need the workers in the US, we have a long, deep, sordid history of H1B workers replacing US workers - who often get offered a few weeks of extra pay to train their much cheaper imported replacements. Nothing new here, but maybe Trump was doing something about it. And yes, I despise Trump, and most of his supposed efforts to help US workers were, at best, a bad joke. But this might have helped.

    US firms need to truly prove that they can't get US staff before sending jobs overseas or importing workers. It's part of the survival of our country and economy.

    And even when WS isn't 'trying to screw' its US workers, here's an example of just how badly run they can be. Super high up WS firm, in an HQ building in Manhattan. A project shuts down, leaving piles of tech staff with no work. About a 3rd of a given floor is HR, the rest divided into 2 tech work areas. HR processes lay offs for the project staff. Across the hall, there's a new project starting up, with a need for virtually the exact same skill sets of the people being dumped. But HR goes out and hires a whole new team from the outside, taking months to hire and more just to get used to the firm. And not only don't they just proactively reach out to the dumped workers, if they apply for the positions they are ignored.

    NO MORE H1B - hire American workers, keep their training up, sponsor college scholarships for US kids for STEM and Finance.

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