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University applauds ruling on DHS and DOL H-1B rules

December 8, 2020
Flagpole with "Meliora" inscription on the Eastman Quad with Ruh Rhees Library in the background.(University of Rochester photo)

On December 3, a federal judge ruled in favor of the University’s October 19 lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor (DOL), deciding that both the DHS interim final rule restricting H-1B qualifications, scheduled to take effect December 7, and DOL’s interim final rule, already in effect and dramatically raising wage requirements for H-1B employees, must both be set aside. In October, the University of Rochester joined forces with several leading research universities and national organizations to file a federal lawsuit against the DOL and DHS in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging these “fast tracked” H-1B visa regulations announced on October 8 as unlawful.  Last week’s summary judgment set aside both regulations, acknowledging that they were both issued on an emergency basis without proper notice and comment.

The University filed this lawsuit due to the significant negative impact of both rules on universities and academic medical centers across the US. These rules made it impossible to renew visas for certain employees working under the H-1B program and legal permanent resident status categories, and made it much more difficult for higher education institutions and other employers to hire skilled foreign employees under these programs. The DHS’s second-highest ranking official has stated publicly that these regulatory restrictions were expected to preclude roughly one-third of the visa application approvals made in the past. Under that assessment, plaintiffs contended that as many as one-third of the current 580,000 H-1B visa holders may have been precluded from renewing their status because of the new regulations.

The October 19 lawsuit was filed by Paul W. Hughes of the firm McDermott Will & Emery on behalf of the University of Rochester and with research universities including Cornell, Stanford, Caltech, University of Southern California, and the University of Utah. Additional plaintiffs included national associations and organizations, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. The executive director of Presidents’ Alliance said of the ruling, in part: “Our nation’s knowledge economy depends on diverse talent from around the world, including skilled researchers, scholars, students and workers. Higher education institutions and businesses are competing with institutions from around the world for the best minds, and we need to ensure that our immigration rules enhance, rather than deter, our ability to compete.”


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