Federal judge strikes down rules restricting H-1B visa program

Dec. 3, 2020, 9:31 a.m.

A California federal district judge struck down H-1B visa rules that would create higher wage requirements for employers and would limit individuals’ eligibility for the program on Tuesday. The decision came as a result of a Chamber of Commerce lawsuit, with Stanford serving as one of the plaintiffs

Two visa rules were proposed — one by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the other by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — earlier this year. University administrators lauded Judge Jeffrey White’s decision, in which he found that unemployment brought on by the pandemic, which federal agencies cited as rationale for the rules, was not sufficient “good cause” to forego procedural requirements to enact the rules.

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne told Stanford News that the ruling will result in fewer disruptions to H-1B holders on campus and will allow the University to continue hiring specialized foreign workers. 

“We are pleased that the court agrees that these rule changes would have had harmful effects on both H-1B visa holders and the communities that rely on them,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

The decision will benefit the Stanford faculty, researchers, postdocs and medical professionals from foreign countries that utilize the H-1B program, according to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda.

The DOL rule, which took effect on Oct. 8, instituted higher wage requirements for companies employing H-1B holders to “reduce the dangers posed by the existing levels to U.S. workers’ wages and job opportunities,” according to the Federal Register’s website. 

The DHS rule, which would have taken effect on Dec. 7, intended to revise the categorization of H-1B visas to “ensure that the employment of H-1B workers will not have an adverse impact on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers,” according to the same website. 

According to Stanford News, the DOL rule would prevent organizations from hiring the desired number of H-1B participants by making the process “prohibitively expensive, and the DHS rule would reduce “the number of H-1B positions by at least one-third.”

Third-year chemistry Ph.D. student Allen Yu-Lun Liang M.S. ’19 from Taiwan said he was glad to see the situation develop, with the rules suspended. He said the increased salary requirement could prevent recent graduates from qualifying for the program. However, he recognized that the judge struck down the rules on the grounds that they were a violation of government procedures, not on the merit of the rules themselves.

In his opinion, the entire H-1B system could benefit from reform: “Workers, companies, and both political parties agree that the system needs a major fix,” Yu-Lun Liang wrote to The Daily. “They just cannot agree on the terms (such as number of visa allocated annually).”

Economics professor Ran Abramitzky, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research who has studied immigration and income inequality, said the DHS and DOL rules would have harmed the U.S. economy and the competitiveness of American organizations, in both the short- and long-term. 

“This misguided rule and others like it are bad news for companies and universities that rely on international students and other foreign researchers and scientists,” Abramitzky wrote to The Daily.

In 2019, Abramitzky researched quotas implemented in the 1920s that cut immigration from 1,000,000 people per year to 150,000. According to the research team’s findings, the protectionist policies did not result in higher-paying jobs for U.S. workers. According to Abramitzky, the policy backfired since “the quotas reduced the number of scientists coming to the U.S., and research shows that as a result, the quotas harmed innovation among U.S.-born scientists.”

“Rules like this will reduce the competitiveness of U.S. universities and companies, and U.S. society will miss out on all the great new ideas and innovations that these foreign workers generate,” Abramitzky wrote.

Contact Anastasia Malenko at malenk0 ‘at’

Anastasiia Malenko is the Vol. 261 News Managing Editor. Originally from Ukraine, she focuses on politics and international student life in her coverage. In her free time, she loves listening to throwbacks and catching up on book and coffee recommendations. Contact her at amalenko 'at'

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