Several individuals and organisations, including the United States Chambers of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, on Monday filed a lawsuit against the federal government’s recent rules related to the H-1B visa, reported PTI. Those who have filed the lawsuit also include the University of Michigan, Bard College, Scripps College, Dentists for America, Physicians for American Healthcare and Hodges Bonded Warehouse.

On October 6, the administration of US President Donald Trump announced significant changes to the H-1B visa programme for high-skilled workers. It narrowed the eligibility criteria for applicants and raised the wages American companies would have to pay to hire foreign workers. The changes introduced by the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security, which take effect in 60 days, would also shorten the length of visas for certain contract workers. The government said the rules would help cushion the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The H-1B visa is highly sought-after by Indian IT professionals.

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, alleged that “harmful and haphazard rules on H1B visas” would affect thousands of America-based workers and hamper manufacturers’ ability to hire and retain high-skilled talent. It alleged that the new orders do not comply with the procedural rules for rule-making and is “arbitrary, incorrect and irrational”.

“The rules being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor undermine high-skilled immigration in the US and a company’s ability to retain and recruit the very best talent,” said US Chamber of Commerce chief Thomas J Donohue. He argued that the new rules will discourage investment, impede economic growth and stop job creation in the US.

National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly said this “dark-of-night-style” rule-making was an illegal attempt to dismantle legal immigration.

“We need high-skilled innovators now more than ever, and the administration’s attempt to rush these rules forward without properly considering their impact on thousands of people on the frontlines of developing vaccines and treatments and making critical supplies, as well as saving lives in our hospitals, could have devastating consequences at a critical moment in our history.” 

— Linda Kelly

Jesse Bless, the director of federal litigation at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, cited several studies to claim that H-1B visa holders create American jobs. “Frankly, the last thing we need during a pandemic and economic turmoil is a rule based on a false and incorrect understanding of the market and American workforce,” he added.

Jeff Joseph, Senior Partner of Joseph and Hall, told the news agency that dealing with the Department of Labor often feels like the dystopian franchise The Hunger Games. He added: “Everyone is required to play the game, but no one knows the rules and the rules are constantly changing. This is not a game.”

“The fact that the rule was made effective without thinking about the destructive impact it would have on industries and the economy illustrates how out of touch this administration is regarding the symbiotic relationship between legal immigration and the economy.”

— Jeff Joseph, Senior Partner of Joseph and Hall

On October 1, a federal judge in San Francisco had blocked Trump from enforcing a temporary ban on a large number of work permits, including the H-1B visa. Trump had on June 22 signed an executive order to suspend several categories of foreign work visas till the end of 2020.

Apart from the H-1B visa, other visas that were banned were H-2B visas for non-agricultural seasonal workers, J visas for cultural exchanges, and L visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations.