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Stretched resources: immigration and gender pay equity

Two stories in the UK headlines today relate to stretched resources: The Home Office preparing its immigration system for life after Brexit, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) enforcing employers to publish information on their gender pay gap.

Immigration system

According to the British House of Commons, it is unlikely the UK will have an immigration system in place when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. The government has not published its future policy. This is causing distress for EU citizens living in Britain, and for UK businesses that rely on EU citizens.

An estimated three million EU citizens will need to register as having the right to be in the UK. Border force agencies will struggle to carry out checks on EU citizens arriving in the country. Agencies like Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and other departments of the Home Office will also feel the impact of the extra caseload. These services are already finding it difficult to cope, resulting in occasional poor decision-making. Dentons has worked with clients to help overcome these poor decisions.

The UK government is due to publish a white paper on immigration policy; already postponed from last autumn, it seems unlikely to see release before March 2019. Ministers working on the white paper have said the delay is to consider the Migration Advisory Committee’s report due in September 2018. Dentons contributed to this report, so we hope to see the collated views of our clients reflected in the future shape of UK immigration rules.

Gender pay equity

By April 4, 2018 companies with 250 or more employees are required to report the gender pay gap in their workforces. Questions have already been raised about whether the gender pay gap regulations under the Equality Act have teeth to motivate business to properly comply. On top of this, it seems likely the EHRC will struggle with having sufficient resources to enforce the regulations.

However, EHRC Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath has distanced the commission from the responsibility of ensuring compliance. She has described the EHRC to the Financial Times as a “strategic enforcer” that looks at novel points of law”, and “at cases which will clarify the law”, and “where impact lies.” Therefore, the EHRC does not see itself as taking on all breaches of the Equality Act.

This bears out in the EHRC’s budget information: The government is not allocating additional resources for work on gender pay reporting. The EHRC will seek to increase its budget if many companies fail to comply with gender pay reporting. Having already seen its funding cut by 25 percent in the 2016–2020 spending review, a crystal ball is probably not needed to predict how any request for a budget increase will be answered.

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Stretched resources: immigration and gender pay equity

Trade deals and immigration

How will future trade deals impact UK immigration policy?

With Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union progressing, the UK is keen to start trade talks with the EU as soon as possible. While a trade deal with the EU is a priority, other countries, including India and Australia, have expressed that, in the fullness of time, they also would like to negotiate their own trade deals with the UK.

The UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, has stated that he is looking for a “Canada Plus Plus Plus” trade deal with the EU, a reference to the recent deal between the EU and Canada. Labor mobility is a key element of that deal, making it easier for certain skilled professionals from Canada to work temporarily in the EU, and vice versa.

We can also learn from other trade deals:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated between 11 Pacific Rim countries (notably not including the US, which withdrew from the pact) is also looking to include an element of labor mobility. For example, it is proposed as part of this deal that it will be easier for Australian employers to recruit people from Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam by exempting them from the usual requirement of advertising the role to Australians as part of the immigration process. In return, Australians will get reciprocal access to the labor markets of these six countries.
  • Likewise, one of the outcomes of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUFTA), which came into effect in 2005, was the US E-3 visa, which is available only to Australians. The E-3 visa is similar to the H1-B visa, however more generous in that it has a separate quota of 10,500, is renewable indefinitely and has the additional benefit of the spouse of the main visa holder being able to work. In contrast, the H1-B visa has a quota of 65,000 (for applicants of all other nationalities), is capped at six years and the spouse of the main visa holder is not able to work. Singapore and Chile enjoy similar preferential immigration routes to the US as a result of their free trade deals.

One of the key arguments for voting to leave the EU was that the UK would be able to negotiate its own trade deals. So what are our likely trading partners saying?

  • Australia has spoken of the need for “greater access” to the UK for Australian business people.
  • India has already stated that the UK will need to relax immigration rules and make it easier for professionals and presumably students from India to come to the UK.
  • The EU is another matter entirely with many competing priorities and parties. The degree of labour mobility post Brexit will depend on whether we see a “soft Brexit” or a “hard Brexit”, which is still very much to be decided.

What is certain is that any trade deal the UK negotiates after Brexit will be about more than goods and services. Labor mobility will be a key element and it is therefore inevitable that any future trade deals the UK agrees will have an impact on immigration policy.

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Trade deals and immigration

UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

Monthly allocation of Tier 2 (General) Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS) could be exhausted for the first time since 2015

When an organization wants to sponsor a new hire or permanent transfer from outside the UK they will more than likely need to be allocated a Tier 2 (General) RCoS via a monthly cycle managed by UK Visas and Immigration. This monthly cycle ranks applications against a points test with higher paid roles, and those where the occupation is recognized as being in shortage, or skilled to PhD level, scoring more points.

In total there are 20,700 RCoS to be allocated each year, divided into monthly allocations. Any RCoS not allocated in a given month are rolled over to the next month. The allocation is front-end loaded, meaning that there are a high number available earlier in the year, to ensure that there are sufficient numbers available for the busy summer months (when we typically see more demand due to recent graduates applying, together with families moving to the UK for the start of the school year).

Below are some statistics from the year so far. We can see from this that front-end loading the allocation ensures that there are sufficient RCoS over the summer; however, as soon as the allocation decreases to 1,500 we see that the balance rolled over immediately drops.

Application period

New RCoS allocation

Balance rolled over from previous month*

Total RCoS available for allocation*

Number allocated

March 6 –  April 5





April 6 – May 5





May 6 – June 5





June 6 – July 5





July 6 – August 5





August 6 – September 5





September 6 – October 5





October 6 – November 5





November 6 – December 5





*when other factors taken into account (for example, RCoS that have been returned unused to be allocated again, certificates allocated to Croatian nationals and exceptional approvals outside the monthly allocation).

Full statistics are available on the UKVI website.

The lower monthly allocation since October, coupled with limited rollover, means that for the December 2017 allocation there may be as few as 1,512 RCoS available for allocation. Official figures from December have yet to be released; however, we should be prepared to see lower-scoring applications rejected. Applications likely to be impacted are those where the salary is at the lower end of the scale and the occupation is not recognized as being in shortage or skilled to PhD level. If the allocation is not exhausted in December, then the risk remains that the allocation will be exhausted in January. The last time we saw the monthly limit exhausted was in summer 2015.

This could continue to be an issue for employers until April 2018, when the year starts again with the higher allocation of 2,200 RCoS. Employers should manage expectations and be prepared for lead times to increase due to the need to resubmit RCoS applications where they are not successful in a given month’s allocation.

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UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

Immigration briefing papers








This week saw the publication of two briefing papers—one by Bernard Ryan, Professor of Migration Law at the University of Leicester (for the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA); and the other by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR)—that make significant contributions to the ongoing conversation on immigration policy, particularly in light of the inevitable changes due to Brexit.

The ILPA briefing paper, “Who will remain after Brexit? Ensuring protection for all persons resident under EU law,” identifies gaps concerning both EU citizens and third-country nationals who, potentially, will be negatively impacted by Brexit as they are not included in the government’s current thinking. These groups include, for example:

  • EU citizens and family members resident outside the UK at the point of Brexit who have a history of residence in the UK and may need or desire to resume residence in the UK in the future; and
  • EU nationals whose primary residence is outside of the UK but who, for either business/work or personal reasons, have a second place of residence in the UK. Post Brexit, these individuals may fail the required residency requirements to obtain residence or settled status, given their high absences from the UK, and instead be treated as visitors to the UK, a status that would obviously not permit them to work in the UK.

A summary of the paper, together with the full version, is available here.

The IPPR paper, “An immigration strategy for the UK: Six proposals to manage migration for economic success,” addresses the need to link immigration with the strategic priorities of the UK, particularly economic ones, in a post-Brexit world, and to understand the role that immigration plays in meeting these. The six proposals referred to in the title are:

This paper serves to remind us of the enormous challenge facing policymakers as they seek to ensure that all affected parties are captured in their thinking and that adequate protections are included in both the withdrawal agreement and future UK immigration legislation.

  1. Immigration strategy should clearly differentiate between types of immigration.
  2. Immigration strategy should actively address geographical imbalances in the economy.
  3. Immigration strategy should be designed to spur innovation.
  4. Immigration strategy should forge a new compact between employers and government, as a means to achieving a high-pay, high-productivity economy.
  5. Immigration strategy should support the UK’s trade balance.
  6. Immigration strategy should promote equality and integration.

In the lead-up to what will inevitably be an overhaul of the immigration system due to Brexit, the IPPR paper reminds us of the opportunity this brings, and the need to be active in the ongoing immigration debate.

The full report is available to download at the IPPR website. (The four-page summary is well worth a read.)

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Immigration briefing papers

Cooking up a storm: Tier 2 chefs


UK immigration rules make a distinction between chefs working in takeaway establishments and those working in restaurants.

If the job requires five or more years of relevant experience in a role of at least equivalent status to the one in which the visa applicant is proposing to start, and the job is neither a fast food outlet, standard fare outlet or takeaway outlet, then the position will fall under the chef roles on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List.

This has recently been the subject of High Court cases in which chefs argued that it’s arbitrary and unreasonable to exclude from the Shortage Occupation List those working at restaurants that provide high-quality cuisine just because the establishment also, incidentally, happens to offer takeaway service. The chefs argued that all skilled chef roles should be on the Shortage Occupation List, and that the focus should be on the nature of the establishment rather than the fact that it incidentally provides takeaway food.

The Secretary of State argued otherwise and the court agreed, finding that the exclusion of jobs in takeaway, fast food and standard fare outlets from the Shortage Occupation List was justified. The court based its decision on evidence provided by the government that takeaway establishments were generally not associated with the kind of cuisine requiring highly skilled chefs.

In view of the rise in the number of gig economy delivery drivers delivering takeaway orders from fine-dining establishments, this is surely an issue that will rumble on.

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Cooking up a storm: Tier 2 chefs

Green card processing times for employment-based immigration expected to increase


Delays and increased processing times can be expected for employer-sponsored immigrants seeking green cards, based on a recently announced change by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS).

In a press release dated August 28, 2017, USCIS stated that the agency plans, effective October 1, 2017, to begin interviewing employment-based immigrants. This will impact employer-sponsored professionals, skilled workers, executives, manager, and outstanding professors and researchers, as well as individually sponsored immigrants with extraordinary or exceptional ability.

The press release states: “Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers in order for their application for permanent residency to be adjudicated. Beyond these categories, USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.”

This statement is inaccurate. In fact, the agency used to personally interview all immigrants. Decades ago, the policy changed and employment-based immigrants were only interviewed if a review of the application showed a need for an interview or as a random, quality-control measure. The primary reason for the change was to devote agency resources to more important tasks, after the agency determined the incidence of fraud detected by in-person interviews was not significantly greater than for applications processed without interviews. In addition, waiving the interview process allowed the agency to consolidate processing at regional centers where government workers were better trained in the special requirements for such immigration. Finally, remote processing at regional centers without direct public contact minimized the inconsistent processing experienced at local offices, as well as the incidence of fraud and corruption by government workers in direct contact with the public.

As Sir Winston Churchill famously stated: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Local interview processing times vary, but the new policy is likely to increase by more than four months the time it takes USCIS to process applications for adjustment of status and maybe much longer where local offices with significant immigrant populations, such as Silicon Valley, are doing the processing.

By the way, the State Department has always interviewed all immigrants. Although going this route is more costly in terms of travel and lost US work days, more immigrants and their employers may want to consider this option if USCIS processing times spiral out of control.

The full text of the agency’s press release can be found at the USCIS website and the Executive Order can be found at the White House website.

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Green card processing times for employment-based immigration expected to increase

Supreme Court allows travel ban

The US Supreme Court partially lifted preliminary injunctions that had blocked President Trump’s revised executive order suspending US entry by foreign nationals from six, rather than the previous seven, mostly Muslim countries. However, the Court carved out an exception for foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the United States,” raising such questions as “What is a bona fide relationship?” and “What is an entity in the US?” that will likely be the subject of further court action.

Supreme Court allows travel ban

The US Supreme Court partially lifted preliminary injunctions that had blocked Executive Order No. 13780, signed by President Donald J. Trump in March 2017 (EO-2), banning travel to the US for citizens of six countries. The Supreme Court scheduled a full hearing of the case for October 2017.

“Bona fide relationship” exception

The Supreme Court found that the preliminary injunction shall remain in place and the travel ban will not impact foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Further, refugees will continue to be allowed to enter the US, subject to the 50,000 person cap on refugee admissions, except that the cap cannot be used as a means to bar an individual with a bona fide relationship with the US.

The Supreme Court defined “bona fide relationship” as either (with respect to individuals) “a close familial relationship” or (with respect to entities), a relationship that is “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course.” What constitutes a sufficiently close familial relationship is likely to be the subject of further court action.

As for what constitutes a sufficiently established relationship with an entity, the Supreme Court provided three examples:

  • Students admitted to attend university in the US
  • Workers who have accepted an offer of employment from a US company
  • Lecturers invited to the US for a speaking engagement

The travel ban will apply to individuals whose relationship with an entity was formed to purposefully circumvent the ban.

It is worth noting that EO-2 in its original form applies only to the new issuance of visas, and not the US entry of individuals who have already been issued visas, green cards or asylum/refugee status.

Also, there is a chance that the Supreme Court will not have to hear the case in its entirety in October. If EO-2 goes into effect as scheduled by the Trump administration, the 90 day temporary ban will conclude at the end of September, several days before the Supreme Court begins its term. This would, then, remove any controversy over the legality of that piece of the order.

Citizens from these countries impacted

Citizens from the following countries are detrimentally impacted:

  • Iran
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

EO-2 does not apply to citizens of other countries who merely visited the listed countries. Further, it does not apply to citizens of these six countries who are dual citizens and use the passport of a non-affected country to apply for a visa and enter the US.

When does the ban start?

In a June 14 memorandum, President Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State and other relevant agencies to wait 72 hours from the release of the Supreme Court decision before banning refugees and travelers from the six affected countries to “ensure an orderly and proper implementation” of the changes.


During his first six months in office, President Trump signed two travel ban executive orders. The first, Executive Order 13797 (EO-1), issued on January 27, 2017, took a number of steps, including:

  • Suspending for 90 days the entry of foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries identified as presenting heightened concerns about terrorism and travel in the US [1]
  • Suspending for 120 days the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), during which an adequacy review is to be undertaken
  • Reducing to 50,000 per year the total number of refugees that could be admitted to the United States, starting in fiscal year 2017
  • Suspending indefinitely admission of refugees from Syria

EO-1 was quickly blocked  by the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, which issued a nationwide temporary restraining order. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied an emergency motion by the US government to stay the district court order pending appeal. In response, the government rescinded EO-1 and went back to the drawing board.

On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed EO-2, which closely mirrored the directives in EO-1, but was intended to correct some its perceived errors, including:

  • Reducing the reach of the 90-day temporary suspension of entry to foreign nationals from six (rather than seven) mostly Muslim countries, with Iraq no longer included [2] and with a case-by-case waiver of the entry bar.
  • Directing the Secretary of DHS to undertake a 20-day global review of whether foreign governments provide sufficient information about nationals applying for visas.

EO-2 was immediately challenged in court, which challenges led to prompt nationwide preliminary injunctions by the US District Court for the District of Maryland and (as stated above) the Western District of Washington, which were then appealed to the US Courts of Appeal for the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, respectively.

The Fourth Circuit concluded that the EO-2 ban on entry from the six named countries was primarily motivated by religious considerations and, as such, violated the First Amendment. In that case, the preliminary injunction only applied to the suspension of entry of foreign nationals from particular countries. The 120-day ban on USRAP and the quota on total refugee immigration would still be in force.

The Ninth Circuit, meanwhile, found that EO-2 exceeded the president’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and, on that basis, upheld the injunction with regard to the entirety of EO-2.

The federal government appealed both decision to the Supreme Court, certiorari was granted, and the two cases were consolidated and oral argument scheduled for October Term 2017. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, heard the government’s application to stay the aforementioned injunctions.

Dentons will continue to issue further information as it becomes available.

[1] Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

[2] Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

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Supreme Court allows travel ban

Adult dependent relatives—judicial review challenge

The Immigration Rules pertaining to visa applications ‎made by adult dependent relatives of UK citizens were changed in July 2012. According to the Rules, an “adult dependent relative” must be a close family member of the UK sponsor, i.e., a parent, grandparent. The Rules also require that:

  • The applicant must—because of age, illness or disability—require long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks.
  • The applicant must be unable—even with the practical and financial help of the UK relative—to get the required care in the country where he or she is living, either because it is not available and there is no person in that country who can reasonably provide it, or because it is not affordable.

There was concern at the time of the Rules change that the Home Office (the government department responsible for immigration, passports, counter-terrorism and crime policy), had tightened the Rules too much.

Home Office statistics have borne out the validity of that concern. Since the Home Office changed the Rules, the average number of successful applications each year decreased by at least 93 per cent!

BritCits, an advocacy group, challenged the current requirements. The organization, which campaigns for fair family immigration rules that don’t divide families or force British citizens into exile, brought a judicial review application in the High Court of Justice (BritCits vs. SSHD) challenging the legality of the Rules. It argued that the Rules defeated the purpose of the law under which they were made; that the Rules raised expectations without any real possibility of those expectations being met; and that the Rules interfered with family life.

The High Court issued a judgment dismissing the judicial review application. BritCits requested and was granted permission to appeal. This was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Applicants applying in this category will have to make applications with the knowledge that their chance of success is exceptionally low and that despite a recent challenge to the Immigration Rules, they will remain as promulgated. Applicants will continue to have to pull together as much evidence as they can to show that they meet the requirements. Although the Rules require scrutiny of the available care in the adult dependent relative’s home country, the Home Office will consider whether the care is “reasonable” for the applicant and “of the required level” for the applicant. This can include the psychological and emotional needs of elderly parents, for example. Taking such an approach could mean the difference between an application for an adult dependent relative being accepted or rejected.

If BritCits pursues its challenge to the Supreme Court we will of course keep you informed.

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Adult dependent relatives—judicial review challenge

USCIS begins return of unselected H-1B petitions

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on May 3, 2017 that it completed data entry of all fiscal year 2018 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in its computer-generated random selection process, and that it began returning all H-1B petitions that were not selected.

The agency did not provide a definite time frame for returning these petitions, but the unselected FY 2017 H-1B petitions were returned by the end of June 2016. The same timetable seems likely this year.

Petition approvals for selected cases have already started being sent. Because of the large volume, processing times vary greatly and petition approvals are likely to continue through the summer and even into the early fall, as was the case in prior years.

For the full text of the USCIS announcement can be found at the USCIS website.

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USCIS begins return of unselected H-1B petitions

‘Hire American’ executive order

End of days—or much ado about nothing?

The visa rules that allow US employers to temporarily hire certain foreign professionals is either going to change dramatically…or not, and there will have been much ado about nothing.

President Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order (EO) on April 18, 2017. This EO does not change any existing law or regulation. It merely calls on the relevant federal agencies to make changes. This means employers can anticipate more, not less, government regulation and new agency policies, limited by US immigration law made by Congress.

Here is the text of the immigration-related components of the EO:

Sec. 5. Ensuring the Integrity of the Immigration System in Order to “Hire American.” (a) In order to advance the policy outlined in section 2(b) of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse.

(b) In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.

It is clear that the EO makes no new rule or change in law, unlike previous EOs like the travel bans. This EO merely instructs the relevant agencies to propose new rules and issue guidance, if appropriate, with the stated goal of protecting US workers and preventing fraud/abuse and suggesting H-1B reforms.

With so little information in the EO, what can employers expect. Limited insights can be gleamed from the backgrounder issued the night before this EO was issued, when the White House held a press briefing.


The EO merely instructs the agencies to issue proposals and guidance to prevent fraud or abuse. The backgrounder does not do much more than explain that the Administration seeks the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the US of foreign workers. The EO calls on the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse. The backgrounder states:

And then again, you add that on top of the across-the-board reform process for guest worker and visa programs in general to make sure that they’re strictly complying with all the rules, laws, and protections for American workers, again, which there are many, but there hasn’t been this kind of systematic review. And this is something that the President, if you look, actually promised that he would have the Department of Labor go and do this kind of systematic review and take these kinds of actions.

We will monitor agency actions carefully to see how this develops, but employers are well advised to review the immigration-related records keeping and compliance systems. Annual affirmative audits and trainings are best practices that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency looks to when considering whether to reduce fines and penalties for violators. Employers are well-advised to consult with counsel on what steps can be taken now, as well as expected changes that can be planned for.

H-1B visa random selection and wages

The EO instructs these agencies to suggest reforms to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries. The backgrounder says that these agencies are expected to report back on proposed ways to change how new H-1B visa petitions are allocated.

Existing rules allocate the limited annual supply of new H-1B visa petitions for most US employers on a random-selection basis. The EO suggests that the foreign worker’s skills and compensation be taken into consideration. Ironically, this would give preference to requests from employers who pay foreign workers more than the average paid to Americans.

The backgrounder acknowledges that some immigration changes can only be made by Congress. Just like the Obama Administration, however, the Trump Administration seems willing to bypass Congress and act unilaterally and not wait for Congress to act.

From the backgrounder:

But you could be looking at things on the administrative side, like increasing fees for H1B visas.  You could be looking at things like if we could adjust the wage scale—a more honest reflection of what the prevailing wages actually are in these fields. Obviously, taking a more vigorous stance, which various—in the Department of Justice do with respect to enforcing gross and egregious violations of the H1B program. You could see potential—and again, we’ll have to get a full legal analysis and review from all the departments, but right now the lottery system disadvantages master’s degree holders. There’s ways that you could adjust the lottery system to give master’s degree holders a better chance of getting H1Bs relative to bachelor’s degree holders. There’s a lot of possible reforms that you could do administratively in addition to a suite of legislative actions.  

There is no change in the H-1B random selection process, which is already concluded for fiscal year 2018. Changes can reasonably be anticipated for fiscal year 2019 filings in April 2018. What skills, wage offers, or other factors will impact the likelihood of selection remains to be determinedassuming that the status quo changes at all.

We will continue to share more information and analysis as the law evolves.

The full text of the EO is published on the White House web site; click here to read the backgrounder press release. To read the President’s remarks on signing the EO click here.

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‘Hire American’ executive order