ACE, Higher Ed Groups Submit Comments on Proposed H-1B Rule Changes
January 08, 2024

In other student visa news, State Department grants extension of the flexibility for waivers for some in-person interviews

ACE and a coalition of higher education associations have submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to the proposed rule “Modernizing H-1B Requirements, Providing Flexibility in the F-1 Program, and Program Improvements Affecting Other Nonimmigrant Workers.” The groups are requesting a reconsideration of the proposed changes, given the importance of H-1B visa regulations in reflecting the evolving dynamics of professional education and the modern workforce.

The H-1B is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa category that allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent, typically in fields such as mathematics, engineering, technology, and medical sciences. The initial duration of an H-1B visa classification is usually three years, which may be extended for a maximum of six years.

In the letter addressed to Division Chief Charles L. Nimick at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the organizations express appreciation for the administration’s efforts to modernize and improve the H-1B system, which significantly impacts colleges and universities as both employers and educators of international students. Tens of thousands of H-1B visa holders are employed by colleges and universities, contributing to groundbreaking research, offering specialized training programs, providing medical services, and supporting the infrastructure necessary for these institutions’ operations.

The associations express support for several provisions within the proposed rule, but also outline significant concerns about proposed changes to the definition of a “specialty occupation” and the determination of a “specific specialty requirement.” They argue that these changes would negatively impact the ability to attract a broad group of candidates for faculty positions and narrow the pipeline for growth in high- and emerging-technology fields.

State Department Extends Flexibility for Certain In-Person Visa Interviews

ACE and other associations sent a request last month to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to extend and make permanent the current authority to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants.

The flexibilities have allowed for faster processing for some international students and scholars applying for F-1 and J-1 visas to study and complete research in the United States.

ACE President Ted Mitchell received a response Dec. 21 that State would extend the flexibility for a waiver to certain applicants, specifically those who have previously held the same visa and have not had a previous rejection. The guidance and announcement of the extension can be found here.