What does Joe Biden’s election mean for U.S. Immigration?

Tejas Shah-

Tejas Shah

Tejas N. Shah, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Chicago, Illinois, helps clients address Immigration & Business situations. The views expressed are his own.


The nightmare is over. After four years of volatility and xenophobia, the Trump era is coming to an end. What does this mean for immigration to the United States?

The Biden administration is expected to take the following immediate steps in the first 100 days:


  • Terminating several Presidential Proclamations issued between 2017 and 2020. This includes the 2017 Muslim Ban and Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052 (issued in 2020) suspending the issuance of H-1B, L-1, and J-1 visas and immigrant visas. The Biden administration is also expected to terminate several geographic restrictions enacted in 2020; however, the timing of their rescission remains unclear.


  • The Biden administration is expected to terminate the new public charge guidelines. Specifically, the Trump administration vastly expanded the criteria for assessing public charge inadmissibility and enacted a new requirement (the Form I-944) that has been subject to ongoing litigation for the last two years. The Biden administration may settle ongoing lawsuits and withdraw the rule or engaging in formal rulemaking to restore the old public charge interpretation.


  • Terminating additional regulations aiming to significantly restrict the availability of H-1B applications. Specifically, the Trump administration attempted to enact regulations in late 2020 that significantly increased prevailing wages and restricted the availability of H-1B visas. Both regulations were blocked in federal court and the Biden administration is unlikely to take any action to revive those regulations. One additional regulation that would give a higher preference to the highest wage level positions in the H-1B lottery remains in the works. It is unclear if the administration will issue this regulation before January 20, 2021; however, if the Trump administration issues this regulation, it is expected to be challenged in court.


  • Proposing legislation that would offer a pathway to permanent legal status for DACA recipients/DREAMERs. The results of the special Senate elections in Georgia have ensured that the Democratic Party will at least be able to force a vote in the Senate on proposed legislation and a DACA bill is expected to be one of the first priorities of the Biden administration.


  • Thoroughly reviewing and reversing many changes enacted by the Trump administration to CBP, USCIS, DOJ, and DOS policies. In further of its “America First” agenda, the Trump administration has taken numerous steps to restrict immigration that are less publicized but no less significant. The Biden administration should thoroughly review these changes and begin to reverse them.


These are but a handful of changes that the Biden administration is likely to advance to reverse the worst excesses of the Trump administration. Longer-term, the Biden administration will also need to tackle several thorny issues that the U.S. Congress has consistently sidestepped, including but not limited to the status of the undocumented population in the United States, the country quotas, and the H-1B quotas. /