How the Administration’s H-1B visa changes could affect colleges

(Excerpts from an Education Dive Article)

  • The U.S. issues up to 85,000 H-1B visas annually; there is no limit on how many can be offered in the higher education field.
  • The new rules, which the departments published in the Federal Register on Thursday, make several changes that could affect international students’ interest in U.S. colleges as well as institutions’ ability to recruit researchers and instructors, legal experts say.
  • H-1B visas allows U.S. companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty fields, which it defines as those requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, and highly specialized knowledge. Under the new rules, H-1B visa applicants would be required to show a “direct relationship” between their degree and the job they’d be doing.
  • Making that connection will be easy in some fields, such as law and medicine, the Homeland Security Department regulation notes. But for fields in which the link is “less readily apparent,” the rule states, the applicant may need to provide documentation, such as the coursework comprising their degree and their job responsibilities.
  • The Labor Department’s rule, meanwhile, increases how much employers must pay workers hired through the program. That stands to be “extremely problematic” for colleges as they contend with pandemic-induced budgetary problems, Spreitzer said.
  • The Labor Department’s rule takes effect immediately and Homeland Security’s takes effect Dec. 7. The department pitched the changes as a way to protect U.S. workers, and said the pandemic’s economic impact gave them reason to forgo the typical comment period.