A U.S. federal judge has blocked two Trump administration rules meant to limit skilled worker visas.
The rules would have forced companies to pay higher salaries to workers with H-1B visas, while also restricting the types of specialty occupations eligible for such visas.
The salary rule went into effect in October, while the limits on job categories was due to begin next week.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White said the Department of Labor wrongly skipped a 30-day waiting period that is typically required for the feedback and comment on proposed rules before they go into effect.
White also dismissed administration arguments that restricting eligibility for the H-1B program was necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Homeland Security had argued it was “urgently necessary to strengthen the integrity of the H-1B program during the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency to more effectively ensure that the employment of H-1B workers will not have an adverse effect on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.”
But Judge White ruled that because the administration did not publish the rules until October, it could not claim to be acting on an urgent need to protect jobs.
“Although both agencies cited to ‘skyrocketing’ and ‘widespread’ unemployment rates as a basis to find ‘immediate’ action was necessary, they did not do so for over six months,” White wrote.
H-1B visas cover highly skilled occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. The United States currently issues a maximum of 85,000 H-1B visas each year allowing for the temporary employment of foreign workers in specialty categories such as technology, engineering and medicine.