United States: New limits on employment-based visa programs

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Feb 17

In brief

A leaked draft of an executive order reveals that Donald Trump may eliminate the 24-month STEM OPT extension and work authorization for H-4 dependents.  This executive order is further expected to mandate site-visits by DHS for L-1 visa holders and have additional consequences for employment-based visa holders.


The following information is based on our analysis of the leaked draft executive order.  The final order could differ.

As of May 26, 2015, H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants with an approved Form I-140 and a pending Form I-485 of more than 180 days, were able to petition for EAD cards.

STEM OPT is a program whereby certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their occupational practical training.

The leaked early draft executive order is unclear in many of its mandates but what is reflected is that Donald Trump may review and revoke the 24-month STEM OPT extension, H-4 EAD, and parole based entry into the United States.

The draft executive order also requires DHS to perform “site visits” at places of employment for L-1 visa holders within 180 days of the issuance of this executive order.  Within 2 years, this site-visit program will be expanded to cover all employment-based visa programs.


Certain provisions of the draft executive order are less clear in their real-world consequences.  These provisions include the call for:

– The alteration of the H-1B program to be “more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest.” This seems to suggest that the H-1B visa program will move towards a merit based system rather than visa allocation by lottery.

– Increased monitoring of foreign students and reforms to practical training programs for foreign students as well as the J-1 Summer Work Travel program in order to favor United States students in the workforce.

– New regulations to clarify that people on business or tourist visas may not perform skilled or unskilled labor.

– An investigation into “the extent of any injury to US workers” caused by the employment of foreign workers, regular reports on the number of foreigners working in the United States, and assessments of benefit fraud for all immigration benefits categories.

For further details regarding the draft executive order, or any other immigration matters, please contact a member of our team.

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