Coronavirus and H-1B visas: 3 FAQs

These three questions can provide some guidance during these uncertain times.

The novel coronavirus has impacted more than just how we shop for groceries and interact with our friends and family in social settings. It has impact how we do our jobs. For some, this means taking home a computer and setting up an office in a location other then our typical on-site office. For others who are working within this country through use of a visa, this new reality can lead to questions about meeting requirements listed within the work visa.

This piece will delve into some of the questions that may arise regarding how the coronavirus will impact H-1B visa holders.

FAQ #1: Will the COVID-19 pandemic impact H-1B visa applications?

This is not the first time a recession has tested the H-1B visa program. In the past, researchers found the demand for H-1B visas were driven by economic demands. The stronger the market, the stronger the demand for these visas. Essentially companies were most willing to hire workers for projects when the projects were in full swing and plans were relatively clear for future growth.

Although many projects are currently on hold due to the coronavirus, it is important to note that the economic impact of the coronavirus has not affected all industries equally. This recession has hit the restaurant and hotel industries hardest - industries that do not generally rely heavily on these visas. Instead, businesses within the technology industry tend to have a high H-1B visa demand. The fact that this industry continues to do well along with the reality that there is a long history of high demand for H-1B visa applicants will likely cushion the impact of the coronavirus on H-1B visa demand.

FAQ #2: Will the USCIS relax work requirements?

Technically, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires H-1B visa holders to work at the address of employment listed on the H-1B application. Although the agency has not yet made an announcement changing this requirement, it is likely to provide some leniency in light of the current situation.

This is supported by the fact the Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced it would not require an approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) to move H-1B workers to different job locations as long as they continue to work in the same area of intended employment. The agency will also likely expect the employer to meet certain posting requirements as outlined with the DOL's guide for compliance during COVID-19.

FAQ #3: When is a new LCA required?

In general, an employer will need to file a new LCA if there are material changes to employment or if the coronavirus results in more than 30 workdays at a worksite not listed on the approved LCA.