“Scoring a High-Skill Visa Just Got a Little Bit Harder”

Bloomberg BNA

“There haven’t been any regulations or new policies issued in response to the president’s ‘Buy American and Hire American’ executive order, but there are signs it’s being implemented through back-door channels.

“The order requires the federal agencies in charge of immigration to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the ‘most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.’ 

“…But some immigration attorneys are noticing a shift in how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services responds to H-1B petitions.

“The USCIS is issuing ‘exponentially more’ requests for evidence in response to H-1B and other high-skilled visa petitions, attorney Sandra Feist of Grell Feist in Minneapolis told Bloomberg BNA…

“…The USCIS denies that anything different is going on behind the scenes.

“Historically there’s a jump in RFEs when the USCIS starts processing H-1B petitions after the annual lottery…The USCIS is taking in more petitions during that time, and so the number of RFEs is going to rise because of that…

“…Feist said she currently has 19 pending RFEs…Every single one of the petitions she filed for H-1B visas subject to the annual cap received an RFE, she said.

“…‘USCIS is really reading petitions much more closely than they used to,’ attorney Elissa Taub of Siskind Susser in Memphis, Tenn., told Bloomberg BNA. And the uptick in RFEs is recent—within the past two or three months…

“…‘RFEs have always been a part of my practice,’ and they tend to ebb and flow…But ‘this feels different to me,’ both in terms of the number and tone of the most recent requests, she said. The agency appears to be ‘overreaching’ and asking for information about foreign workers who aren’t even the subject of the petition…

“…USCIS is ‘putting petitioners between a rock and a hard place,’ Taub said. The agency requires employers to prove that the position that is complex enough to be considered a ‘specialty occupation,’ but then questions why, if it’s so complex, the employer only is paying an entry-level wage, she said.”

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