At a program held today at Seyfarth Shaw’s offices in Chicago, partners Jim King and Leon Rodriguez discussed rapidly developing changes in business immigration in the first 100 days of the Trump administration.  King serves as co-chair of the Business Immigration Group and Rodriguez is the most recent director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

King and Rodriguez identified changes flowing from a series of executive orders issued by President Trump since inauguration which direct changes in areas including arrival of foreign travelers in the United States, screening of visa applicants and immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States.  King and Rodriguez also discussed possible policy changes that could operate to change and possibly restrict the availability of employment-based visas to the United States.

King discussed concrete plans including the hiring of 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, nearly tripling the available force to effectuate deportations from the U.S.  Rodriguez discussed preparations being made by employers in light of the widening immigration net including briefing receptionists and on-site managers on correct and lawful procedures for handling a visit from an immigration agent.

King and Rodriguez talked about changes affecting travelers including a doubling in the percentage of travelers arriving from abroad who are subject of searches of their electronics devices.

King and Rodriguez also explained shifts in site visit policies for business that employ H-1B and L-1 visa holders, noting that inspections overall will likely go up for such companies, while at the same noting that the federal government intends to target companies with large percentages of H-1B holding employees and/or employees working off-site.

This growth in enforcement activity comes alongside signals from the administration that it is hoping to bring about a fundamental change in the way H-1B, L-1 and other employment-based visas are granted. While there does not appear to be consensus in Congress as to the direction of that change, President Trump has been clear about his interest in adopting a “merit-based” immigration system that would favor higher-wage and higher-skilled work applicants.