President Biden has revoked a US visa freeze previously implemented by his predecessor, claiming the policy doesn’t advance US interests and hurts both businesses and individuals. “It harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,” the president said.
Now, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers will be able to apply for visas and green cards.
Work visas previously halted
Former President Donald Trump previously froze green cards for new immigrants due to the pandemic; he argued that preventing legal immigration was essential in order to protect the country’s job market during this unprecedented time. Public health reasons were also a concern.
Additionally, Trump put a stop on temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers, and au pairs in the H-1B, H-4, H-2B, L-1, and J categories. However, Biden’s recent measure doesn’t affect the freeze on these temporary employment visas.
Unless Biden chooses to prolong the freeze, it’ll expire at the end of March (as initially decided by Trump).
America relies on migrant workers
Tech giants including Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft have publicly opposed the visa freeze imposed by the previous administration. These companies use the H-1B skilled worker visa to recruit software engineers and other high-skilled workers from around the world. These visas are initially valid for three years, with the possibility to renew them for another three years.
Moreover, the Austin H-2B visa has been used by American employers since 1952. It’s used to hire foreign temporary workers to fill short-term or seasonal roles – ones that American workers don’t take up.
However, the visa freeze has left the H-2B program in crisis. American employers are struggling to fill growing numbers of open positions, which ultimately damages the country’s businesses, consumers, and workers in other jobs. Last year was the first year in many that the H-2B visa cap was left unfilled.
Ultimately, the previously implemented policy prevented qualified and eligible non-US residents from entering the country, “resulting, in some cases, in the delay and possible forfeiture of their opportunity … and to realize their dreams in the United States,” said Biden.
The recent reversal of this policy by the new administration now means that hundreds of thousands of foreigners will be able to apply for visas and green cards immediately, rather than having to wait until the end of March.