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Will Biden Lift The H1B Visa Ban?

Trump’s H-1B visa suspension prevents international business school students from finding jobs in the United States. With Biden as President, we ask: Will the visa ban be lifted?

Thu Mar 18 2021



On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. From day one, Biden embarked on a flurry of executive orders to undo much of Trump’s legislation and undergo a complete change in policy direction. 

The H1-B Visa Ban Has Been Lifted - Read our latest report

For business schools, one of the most damaging impacts of the Trump administration was on visas and immigration. From June 2020, Trump suspended distribution of the H-1B work visa, which allows highly-skilled immigrants to work in specialty professions in the US. 

Many American schools rely on the H-1B visa to attract top international students with the promise of staying on to work in the US after they graduate. Amid the visa uncertainty, international MBA and master's students who would typically relocate to the US for business school have increasingly looked elsewhere.

In October 2020, the former President added a further tightening of restrictions, stating that H-1B visa holders must meet a certain minimum salary to retain their visa. Trump renewed the H-1B visa suspension on January 1, 2021 for a further three months, continuing the suspension past his last day as...


So can we expect Biden to lift the H-1B visa ban?

What is Biden’s approach to visas?

Biden has issued a strong vocal opposition to Trump’s approach to visas and immigration. His manifesto website states: 'An immigration system that crowds out high-skilled workers in favor of only entry level wages and skills threatens American innovation and competitiveness.'

He has always opposed Trump’s 'racist' travel bans, and reversing the travel ban on certain Arabic and African countries was one of his first moves as President. 

Biden plans to expand the number of visas given to high-skilled immigrants, as well as removing the country-based caps on employment visas. He also plans to exempt PhD students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields from the cap altogether. 

While the H-1B visa isn’t specifically named, it’s likely to be included in this extension of visas. In July 2020, after Trump’s initial H-1B visa ban, Biden declared he would lift the ban were he to win the presidency.

The timeframe of this reversal is harder to predict. We've already seen a flurry of executive orders in Biden’s first months as president, which can quickly bypass the legislative process. So far these have included rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, reversing travel bans, and stopping the deportation of illegal immigrants. 

There are already positive indications that he will reverse the H-1B ban. Registrations for the 2022 H-1B visa lottery are open already. And even without Biden's intervention, Trump's executive order will expire on March 31st 2021, bringing the H-1B back into action. 

READ: The 6 Easiest Countries To Get A Work Visa



Why is the H1B visa important?

Biden sees visa reform, especially regarding skilled migrants, as critical to innovation and the US economy. 

Ahead of Trump’s election in 2016, internationals made up between 20% and 25% of the STEM workforce. Over half of US companies valued at over $1 billion have at least one international founder, according to the GMAC Early Warning Signals white paper published in 2019. 

By increasing the number of visas issued, Biden looks to rebuild this spirit of diversity and innovation in US business. This is partly in debt to the large technology companies and financial institutions which backed Biden’s candidacy.

No one expects changes to be instant, especially given the other priorities Biden faces with regards to COVID-19, the economy, and the environment. But with the Democrats having taken control of both the House and the Senate, the path is now open for Biden to restore America’s footing as a destination for immigration. 

2021 looks like it could be a positive shift in the right direction. For business school students, more H-1B visas would see an improvement on the returns from their education, both in terms of the diversity of their classroom, and greater access to high quality jobs in the United States after they graduate. 

Next Read:

H1B Visa Alternatives: 4 Ways You Can Still Get A Job In The US

This article was originally published on the January 8, 2021, and was most recently updated on March 18. Main image used under this license