On Tuesday, 1 December, a US federal judge struck down two Trump administration rules designed to drastically curtail the number of H-1B visas issued each year to skilled foreign workers.
The Trump Administration had proposed to narrow the eligibility for H-1B visa aspirants and raise the minimum salary requirement in an effort to make it harder for foreign skilled workers to qualify for the visa program.
US district judge Jeffrey S White of the Northern District of California ruled that the changes were introduced in a hurry and did not abide by the usual transparency obligations: Provide notice and sufficient time for public comments.
The administration had sought to rush it through in October arguing urgency — as a “good cause exception” — in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Defendants failed to show there was good cause to dispense with the rational and thoughtful discourse that is provided by the APA’s notice and comment requirements,” White wrote.
“The court cannot countenance — reluctantly or otherwise — defendants’ reliance on the COVID-19 pandemic to invoke the good-cause exception,” White wrote.
“The pandemic’s impact on the economy is the only reason DHS (Department of Homeland Security) proffered as good cause, and defendants do not dispute that the failure to provide notice and comment was prejudicial.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an event beyond defendants’ control, yet it was within defendants’ control to take action earlier than they did,” White wrote.
“Both of these rules had the potential to be incredibly disruptive to the operations of many businesses", said Jon Baselice, director of immigration policy for the US Chamber of Commerce in a statement, claiming that many companies across industries will breathe a sigh of relief after this ruling.
“This is incredibly important decision to preserve the H-1B program,” said attorney Paul Hughes, who represented the plaintiffs. “This ruling enables those individuals to maintain their jobs and their families in the United States.”
Indian professionals are the largest beneficiaries of the H1-B Visa program, bagging approximately 70 percent of the 85,000 visas each year.