California Federal Judge Throws Out President Trump’s New H-1B Visa Rules

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, a federal judge in Oakland, California has blocked President Trump’s new restrictions on H-1B visas. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled that the Trump Administration failed to demonstrate “good cause needed to skip the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).” Here, our H-1B visa lawyer provides an overview of the decision and explains what it could mean for the future of the H-1B visa program.

Federal Judge: COVID-19 Pandemic Does Not Justify Procedural Shortcut

On December 1st, 2020, Judge Jeffrey S. White blocked the implementation of the Trump Administration’s proposed H-1B visa restrictions (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Department of Homeland Security). The legal challenge, which was filed by a collection of business groups and universities, was based on procedural grounds. As one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs told reporters, the Trump Administration improperly used the COVID-19 pandemic as “pretext” to push a policy reform that it had already “planned to do for years.

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires administrative agencies to follow certain rulemaking protocols—including providing stakeholders and the general public with a notice and comment period—before finalizing a policy change. The Trump Administration argued that the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout was an emergency that justifies skipping the standard rulemaking procedures.

The California federal court disagreed with the Trump Administration. As noted in the opinion, the emergency exceptions included within the APA are designed to be “narrowly construed” and “reluctantly countenanced.” While COVID-19 is certainly an unprecedented national emergency, a change to the H-1B visa rules are not justified by the situation. The Administration must go through the standard rulemaking process in order to restrict H-1B visas.

President-Elect Joe Biden Promises a Swift Policy Shift on H-1B Employment Visas

Of course, District Judge Jeffrey S. White’s ruling is not necessarily the final word on the matter. The Trump Administration can appeal the decision, potentially seeking a hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States. It could also restart the process and use the proper rulemaking procedures.

However, there are questions about the timeline. President Trump’s term is nearing its end and the incoming administration is likely to take a different direction on H-1B visas and immigration more broadly. As reported by Marketplace, President-Elect Joe Biden has promised to reverse the Trump Administration’s H-1B visa restrictions. Indeed, on the campaign trail, Candidate Biden even spoke of expanding the number of H-1B visas.

Contact Our H-1B Visa Attorneys for Immediate Help

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our immigration lawyer has deep experience advising clients with complex employment immigration matters, including with H-1B visa cases. Our firm will protect your rights. Contact us today to arrange a completely confidential initial strategy session. We represent H-1B visa applicants throughout all of Southern California, including in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, and Ventura County.

Josh Goldstein
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