As COVID-19 sweeps across the nation, forcing the closures of everything from schools to restaurants, employees everywhere are being asked to work from home. And that could potentially have a significant impact on technology workers who are on visas, according to reports.
As the Mercury News points out, those holding H-1B visas must list where and how they’re working; as a result, if a company shifts to a remote-work policy, or adjusts its employees’ current hours and tasks, that could lead to lots of additional paperwork. “No one was prepared for this to be coming down the pipeline,” Shev Dalal-Dheini, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the paper.
However, some attorneys argue that things won’t change very much for H-1B holders if the current pandemic doesn’t radically change the nature of their job. “For an H-1B employee, an amended petition or LCA [labor condition application] should not be required as long as the employee is working in the same capacity and within typical commuting distance of the work location on the original petition and LCA,” William Stock of Klasko Immigration Law Partners recently told Forbes.
If the current bans on some travel persist, that could also have a significant impact. It could become far more difficult for visa holders (and visa applicants) to enter the country to begin with—and also prevent them from leaving easily if their application for new or continuing employment is denied.
It’s worth noting that, over the past few years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has denied an increasing number of new H-1B visa applications, as well as continuing-employment ones. Critics of the H-1B visa program have applauded this increasing rate of denials, as it undermines what they see as an aggressive, years-long attempt by tech and consulting firms to bring aboard foreign talent at artificially suppressed prices. COVID-19 could introduce additional disruptions on top of the USCIS squeeze, but nobody knows how the whole process will play out. How will the pandemic affect the current pool of H-1B workers?