After reports late last month that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was considering a policy change that could have prevented certain H-1B workers who are applying for permanent residency from extending their H-1B status beyond the normal time limit of six years, the agency has reportedly reversed course. After intense criticism from the business and technology communities, the Trump administration appears to be no longer considering the policy change that could have potentially forced hundreds of thousands of foreign skilled workers out of the country.
“The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment based visa programs,” Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), told McClatchy. “What we can say, however, is that USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the 6 year limit. Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead.”
Withington additionally claimed this policy change was never considered and that “any suggestion that USCIS changed its position because of pressure is absolutely false.” McClatchy confirms, however, that multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation said that was not true, and the administration only shifted after the intense response from the business community. Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers, was one of many welcoming the reversal. “This a major accomplishment for everyone who came together to express their outrage about a cruel and vindictive policy proposal.”