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Looking at the future of immigration into the U.S. and the potential impact on global mobility programs

With the presidential election concluded and as we prepare to move into 2021, many in mobility are likely wondering what it all means for U.S. immigration policy and practices. These details will likely have a huge impact on many, if not all, global mobility programs.

Our friends at Envoy Global recently educated everyone via their webinar, "Immigration and The 2020 Election," where host Chris Richardson broke down the details of president-elect Joe Biden's immigration platform and how different a philosophy it is from the current administration. Biden is expected to repeal many of the executive orders that the Trump administration had put into place, which includes more than 400 high profile as well as little-noticed policy changes reducing legal immigration by almost 49% over the last four years. The majority of these immigration policy changes were made without any change in U.S. immigration law and came through proclamations, policy memos, regulations or other executive actions and are now vulnerable. 

President-elect Biden's team will begin the process of undoing most of them. Some of the items that would likely fall under the new plan are:

  1. Reverse the public charge rule
  2. Protect Dreamers and their families
  3. Rescind travel bans
  4. Streamline naturalization process
  5. Reform the visa program for temporary workers in select industries
  6. Reform the temporary visa, by expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminate limits on employment-based visas by country
  7. Create a new visa category to allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigrants

When it comes to the impact on global mobility programs, it will be the H-1B program that may have the biggest impact. Since an H-1B will remain the only practical way for many people to work long-term in the U.S., one of the first steps expected will be to increase the number from 65,000 to 110,000+ (maybe even up to 200,000 visas per year).  Just recently, the Trump administration had issued three new regulations related to the H-1B:

  1. increase salary requirements for each level
  2. new definitions of specialty occupations 
  3. eliminating the lottery and replacing it with a highest-to-lowest salary system

All three are likely to be eliminated or revised, although immigration experts advise that should Biden's team try to rush the process, they may face the same challenges that the Trump administration has been hampered by. There is currently a major backlog and it may take a few years to burn through the piles of unfinished work, so the "undoing" could take nearly the entire first term for Biden's team. But Biden has been quoted as saying that, “The people who have come on this visa have built this country.” He will hope to reverse the current outflow of fleeing international students and highly educated workers. 

Lastly, Biden will likely increase the currently capped 140,000 permanent, employment-based visas (aka green cards) and work with Congress to create a system that is more flexible based on what is going on in the economy.

For some additional content on this topic, check out this article from Personnel Today, "US immigration: How Biden’s election affects global mobility".

Let us know how you are feeling about the potential changes that are likely coming in 2021. Interested in some interesting data related to immigration perspectives over time? Take a look at this set of poll questions from Gallup.

While the COVID-19 public health crisis and its impact on the U.S. economy will preoccupy President-elect Joe Biden during his first weeks in office, the incoming Democratic administration is also expected to quickly start dismantling President Trump's immigration agenda.


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