Administration Continues Attacks on H-1B Visas in New Executive Order

The Administration has once again aimed its sights at the H-1B visa program, this time in an August 3, 2020  Executive Order (E.O.) ostensibly directed at federal agencies, contractors and subcontractors.

The order requires federal agencies to review the extent to which federal agencies and their contractors and subcontractors are employing foreign professional H-1B visa temporary workers or are offshoring work and any resulting adverse effects to U.S. workers, and to submit a report within 120 days of the order’s issuance.

But the E.O.  also directs the Secretaries of the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to “take action” within 45 days “to protect United States workers from any adverse effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa holders at job sites (including third-party job sites)”  and to ensure that employers with H-1B staff complied with existing laws requiring them to ensure that U.S. workers are not disadvantaged through the hiring of foreign workers. This section appears to apply to all employers, including those with no connection to federal agencies or contracts.

While this Executive Order may have little immediate impact, it underscores the administration’s antipathy towards the H-1B visa program.  It’s another example, following on the heels of the June 22, 2020 Presidential Proclamation barring entry of H-1B visa holders through the remainder of 2020,  of COVID-19’s  economic impact being used by the administration as a platform to diminish employers’ confidence in relying on H-1B program to get the talent they need.