Will highly skilled immigrants blossom under a Biden administration?
The third time’s the charm for Joe Biden who was elected as the 46th US president in his third bid for the White House. Both Biden and Kamala Harris will make history during their inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 — Biden will be the oldest person elected president while Harris will become the first woman and the first woman of colour to be elected vice-president. But how will Biden’s presidency affect highly skilled immigrants?
In the past four years, the Trump administration has introduced policies that were seen to have an “anti-immigration agenda”, including temporarily suspending H-1B visas and other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers.
But Biden could soon turn the tide by reversing certain policies, making it easier for well-educated and highly-skilled foreign graduates to live and work in the US.
H-1B visas are coveted among foreign workers — this non-immigrant working visa enables US companies to employ skilled foreign workers.
Under Trump’s administration, the denial rate on new H-1B petitions for high-skilled foreign nationals increased from six percent in FY 2015 to 30% in FY 2020, reported Forbes.
“If the Biden administration understands only one thing about business immigration, it should be this: H-1B visas are inextricably linked with the ability of highly educated people to become employment-based immigrants and eventually American citizens, said Stuart Anderson on Forbes.
He added that restrictions on H-1B visas can prevent the next potential founder of a billion-dollar company from gaining a green card and certainly will hurt international students.
“In addition to academic research that shows imposing H-1B restrictions push more jobs outside the US, the country’s future can be affected in other ways: 75% – 30 out of 40 – of the finalists of the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search had parents who worked in America on H-1B visas,” he wrote.
How highly skilled immigrants benefit the US
High-skilled immigration is essential for firm competitiveness and innovation, but studies note that among the overlooked consequences of restrictions on high-skilled hiring of immigrants include offshoring jobs abroad instead to their foreign affiliates.
However, Biden could make it easier for well-educated and highly-skilled foreign graduates to work in the US.
He plans to increase the number of high-skilled visas, including the H-1B, and eliminate the limit on employment-based visas by country, both of which are expected to benefit thousands of Indian professionals impacted by some immigration policies of the outgoing Trump administration, said BloombergQuint.
“With Kamala Harris as his deputy, Biden is expected to reverse the move of the outgoing Trump administration to revoke work permits to the spouses of H-1B visas, which had adversely impacted a large number of Indian families in the US. All these are part of a comprehensive immigration reform that the Biden administration plans to work on, either in one go or in separate pieces,” said the report.
According to a policy document issued by the Biden campaign via The Economic Times: “Biden will work with Congress to first reform temporary visas to establish a wage-based allocation process and establish enforcement mechanisms to ensure they are aligned with the labour market and not used to undermine wages. Then, Biden will support expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by country, which create unacceptably long backlogs.”
The policy document adds that Biden will also exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programmes in STEM fields in the US who are poised to make some of the most important contributions to the world economy.
“Biden believes that foreign graduates of a US doctoral programme should be given a green card with their degree and that losing these highly trained workers to foreign economies is a disservice to our own economic competitiveness,” it said.
The report added that the Biden administration plans to create a new visa category to allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigrants to support their growth.
Biden’s proposed immigration reform will spell good news for those looking to upgrade their academic credentials in the US, especially once Biden is sworn in, to improve their chances of becoming gainfully employed and — for some — to eventually become American citizens.