Trump Administration Suspends Issuing New H-1B, Other Visas Until Next Year
June 24, 2020

​President Trump on Monday signed an executive order to suspend new H-1B, L-1, and other non-immigrant work visas for through the end of the year, along with an extension of the freeze on green cards for new immigrants.

International students (under F-1 visas) and scholars (under J-1) are not included in the order. However, the suspension of  H-1B program for temporary workers in specialty occupations will likely have an impact on colleges and universities in terms of hiring plans and graduating international students, and is being slammed by business leaders.

The goal of the move reportedly is to protect 525,000 jobs as part of the White House response to job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As ACE’s Sarah Spreitzer told Inside Higher Ed in an interview Monday, many institutions use the H-1B program to hire faculty in high-need STEM fields such as engineering and computer science. Demand for H-1B visas regularly outstrips supply, The New York Times reports—there were more than 200,000 applicants for 85,000 available spots last year (Congress has set a cap on the number of H-1Bs available, but universities are exempt from that cap.)

Officials said in a background briefing that the administration plans to replace the lottery through which H-1B visas are awarded in favor of granting the visas to the 85,000 applicants with the highest salary offers.

The order does not affect the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which has been under scrutiny for possible changes by the White House. OPT permits international students to receive practical training in the United States for 12 months or an additional 24 months in a STEM-related position, usually after graduation. In a letter May 19, ACE and nine other associations wrote to the White House about the importance of the OPT program and international students as a whole and their positive impact on the U.S. economy.  

The executive order stems from one in April that put the initial freeze on green cards, as well as instructed the secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to review non-immigrant programs and recommend other measures to stimulate the U.S. economy and prioritize the hiring and employment of U.S. workers. ACE and 62 other associations sent a letter April 30 to the departments noting the importance of international students and offering to assist in the agencies’ review.

In the same letter, the groups urged the Secretary of State to prioritize applications for student visas as consulates re-open as pandemic restrictions begin to scale back. They also requested that State and Homeland Security extend regulatory flexibility for international students to begin their studies online if campuses are unable to open in the fall or student visas are delayed.

The order, which goes into effect June 24,  is not expected to affect immigrants and visa holders already in the United States.