When leadership in a country (or a business for that matter) makes changes in rules, policies and qualifications, there are always unintended consequences. The reason is that it is impossible to know ahead of time how sweeping changes will play out, and what the effect may be long term.
This organizational principle will be at the center of work visas and immigration in the US over the next few years, as the incoming Trump administration has made it no secret that they intend to reform the H1B visa program and other immigration laws. Ironically, one of those unintended consequences could be an increase in the number of permanent resident workers (green card holders) who are currently working under H1B visas.
The Permanent Resident Opportunity for H1B Visa Holders
Most non-immigrant visa holders are prohibited from having ‘dual intent’, in other words securing a temporary visa with the plan to try to obtain a green card once inside the country. The H1B visa however, is one of only three work visa categories where the non-immigrant worker can legally pursue permanent resident status while staying in the US under a nonimmigrant visa.
As the availability of H1B visas may be limited in the future, those who are currently applying, or thinking of an extension or transfer, should consider having a plan to begin the green card process. Even H1B transfers could be affected by the new Trump policies, since a transfer essentially is an application for a new H1B visa, subject to any new restrictions. If you have a current US employer, that is enough to begin to take steps toward a green card with the assistance of an immigration attorney.
News Flash: Trump Favors Qualified Foreign Professionals Working in the US
One of the often-overlooked statements by President-elect Trump is that he values the educational background and professional skill set of foreign born workers. As a lifelong businessman that utilized the H1B visa program, he realizes that there are some countries that offer a different educational or technical training to their citizens, and that US businesses can benefit from employing them. He also favors allowing foreign students studying in the US to remain and work after graduation, in order to preserve the investment in that knowledge base.
These practical considerations may open up different types of opportunities for those in ‘specialty occupations’ that may have skills not readily available in the US workforce. Whether it is IT workers from India, nurses from the Philippines or medical researchers from China, the H1B program is one way for those professionals to begin a career in the US. The major change will be that they should begin seeking residency and a green card as soon as possible.
From H1B Visa to Permanent Residency: The Long-Term Opportunity
In a future article, we will discuss the steps for an H1B visa worker to obtain permanent residency, and it is not without effort or time involved. However, if your dream is to remain in the US and pursue your career, then this is a much better option than sweating out changes to the program and re-applying every three years with an uncertain outcome.
It is fair to say that under the Trump administration, there will be a crackdown on temporary or illegal workers in the US that are perceived to be hired as cheap or easily available employees to replace US workers. But that does not mean the US economy does not need the ‘global brain trust’ that is held by those from other nations, and its value to business in the US is well-documented.
Please contact us at any time if you need assistance locating a US sponsor or have questions about the H1B visa program.
- January 23rd, 2017