On June 22, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending entry of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants into the United States. This extends a previous presidential proclamation through the end of 2021, and notably adds a suspension for certain nonimmigrant visa categories: H-1B, H-2B, J, and L.
These changes are intended to encourage employers to hire Americans as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the short-term effect on employers that rely on skilled foreign national workers is unclear. Economic developers, educators, and workforce practitioners may want to reach out to local employers that rely on workers under these visas to uncover the local impacts.
This blog provides links to help practitioners identify employers for further outreach to explore local impacts.
Before providing those links, we summarize the implications of this proclamation that may be clouded by the alphabet soup of visa categories. To briefly summarize:
- H-1B visas are the ones you are most likely to have heard of before. These visas are used to fill highly-skilled positions requiring specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher. The number available is capped annually (85,000 for fiscal year 2021, including 20,000 reserved only for advanced degrees). Usually the cap is reached on the first day applications can be submitted, and visas are assigned via lottery. Though most go to workers in IT occupations, other highly-skilled occupations include engineers and physicians.
- H-2B visas are for temporary or seasonal nonagricultural workers. More than half go to landscaping and groundskeeping workers. There is an annual cap of 66,000 H-2B visas, with half for workers who start in the first half of the fiscal year (October through March) and half who start in the second half of the year. Workers already working in the United States in essential services in the food supply chain are exempt from the ban.
- J-1 visas are designed to promote cultural exchange. These may include camp counselors, guest service jobs, and similar summer jobs. Many of these visas also go to visitors obtaining medical or business training, with the expectation that they will take those skills back to their home country. Doctors wishing to stay in the United States following their training under J-1 foreign medical graduate status may be eligible to transfer to H-1B status and waive the requirement to return to their foreign residence if they are willing to find employment and sponsorship in designated medically underserved areas.
- L visas allow a company in the United States to transfer an executive or manager from a foreign office to work in the U.S. office. It also allows for these transfers to establish a new U.S. office.
With the different caps, deadlines, and requirements, the effect of the presidential proclamation is uncertain. The caps for new H-1B visas and H-2B visas have already been met.
Workers already on an H-1B visa face no new restrictions for extending those visas. However, since the order extends through December, it will impact H-2B visa applications for the next fiscal year (which begins in October). H-1B visas also require significant investments from sponsoring employers in terms of costs to file and time to prepare, so uncertainty about the extension of the ban could have a chilling effect on investing in new applications next year.
J-1 visas for summer jobs will be impacted, but there is likely less demand from employers as summer camps and amusement parks are largely closed at this point due to COVID-19.
Importantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, further clarification of the proclamation confirms that foreign medical graduates who may need J-1 visas for medical training will still be able to enter the United States for that training.
Finally, L visas do not have a cap, and more than 157,700 L visas were issued in 2019.
Local Data Sources
How might this impact your local employers? We have compiled a few sources of data to help your analysis and outreach. For H-1B visas, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, the replacement organization for the Immigration and Naturalization Services or INS) has a data hub with names of employers and number of H-1B visas approved or denied. You can search for a particular region or employer or download the full data set by year. The data are organized by employer and contain North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes to help find companies in certain industries that may be more dependent on H-1B workers.
Prior to filing an H-1B petition, applicants must complete a Foreign Labor Certification form. Data for individual forms, including job title, employer name, work location, and contact information, can be found in the performance data report (scroll down to the performance data Excel files). While these data may help with identifying employers for further outreach, they should be used with great caution for any data analysis. The data are messy and forms can include mistakes, may change as circumstances of the petition change, and just because this form is filed does not mean a petition was filed or approved. The same performance data report page also has similar disclosure data for H-2B applications.
For L-1 visas, USCIS released a pdf file of approved petitions by employer for fiscal year 2018. Unfortunately, it does not contain geographic information, but the list could be coupled with output from the Employer Database feature in JobsEQ® to search for specific employers in your region.
Finally, data on the number of J-1 participants are available by zip code or by state and program but not by employer.
The immediate impacts of the extended immigration ban for these visa programs may be limited as the annual limits on some visas have already been reached or demand for some seasonal jobs has been depressed by COVID-19 shutdowns
With the ban now extending into the next fiscal year, employers and regions are expected to experience varying effects. Economic developers, educators, and workforce practitioners can use the links provided here to identify employers for further outreach to explore local impacts, including the need to add curriculum to prepare U.S. citizens for these job openings.
 Essential services may include, but are not limited to, “work related to the processing, manufacturing, and packaging of human and animal food; transporting human and animal food from farms, or manufacturing or processing plants, to distributors and end sellers; and the selling of human and animal food through a variety of sellers or retail establishments, including restaurants.” Source: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/05/14/2020-10486/temporary-changes-to-requirements-affecting-h-2b-nonimmigrants-due-to-the-covid-19-national