Trump administration’s review of H-1B visa program challenged in court

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WASHINGTON – A group of information technology companies filed a lawsuit Friday night challenging a Trump administration rule increasing the wages employers must pay their foreign workers on H-1B visas, in a bid to tighten visa eligibility.

The Trump administration last week rolled out its long-awaited overhaul of the H-1B visa program for highly skilled workers, a program highly regarded by U.S. high-tech companies and other employers.

Part of the overhaul released by the Labor Department went into effect last Thursday, bypassing the usual public comment period. The department’s rule dramatically increases the minimum wages that companies are required to pay their H-1B employees. The lawsuit brought by the ITServe Alliance, a trade group representing information companies, was filed against the department in the United States District Court in New Jersey.

“Without giving notice and without giving complainants or the general public an opportunity to comment, the Ministry of Labor has radically changed the way it calculates the wage rates in effect for the H-1B program,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit argues that the Trump administration took shortcuts by enacting the rule on an urgent basis, rather than conducting a full analysis of its impact on current visa holders and the economy, and incorporating potential changes based on them. public comments.

The Labor Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separate lawsuits are expected next week against another set of rules, released by the Department of Homeland Security. These rules restrict the right to qualify for an H-1B visa and shorten its duration for some contractors. This rule is expected to come into effect in December.

Under the Department of Labor’s new wage requirements, which are based on surveys of wages by occupation and location, companies would be required to pay entry-level workers at the 45th percentile, compared to their current obligation. paid at least at the 17th percentile. High-level employees, who are currently required to receive salaries at the 67th percentile, should be paid at the 95th.

A junior electrical engineer in San Jose, Calif., For example, would earn at least $ 127,042, up from $ 88,712 before the new rule took effect, according to data from the Department of Labor.

The new rule has likely affected only a small subset of H-1B holders so far – only those in the early stages of filing renewal applications. If this were to stay in place, however, it could have a disproportionate impact on small businesses such as tech start-ups that have limited cash flow to pay higher mandatory wages.

Write to Michelle Hackman at [email protected]

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