“Trump administration red tape tangles up visas for skilled foreigners, data shows”


“The Trump administration is making it more difficult for skilled foreigners to work in the United States…according to data reviewed by Reuters.   

“The more intense scrutiny of the applications for H-1B visas comes after President Donald Trump called for changes to the visa program so that it benefits the highest-paid workers, though he has not enacted any such reforms.

“Data provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shows that between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, the agency issued 85,000…“requests for evidence”…to H-1B visa petitions - a 45 percent increase over the same period last year. The total number of H-1B petitions rose by less than 3 percent in the same period.

“The challenges, which can slow down the issuance of visas by months, were issued at a greater rate in 2017 than at any time in the Obama administration except for one year, 2009, according to the USCIS data…

“…The USCIS inquiries typically challenge the basis of the original petitions and assert that the employers do not qualify for the visas. Employers and their lawyers must then provide further evidence to prove their need and eligibility for the visas.

“…Immigration attorneys have for years complained about redundant and burdensome challenges to high-skilled employment visas. But they say they are seeing a new trend in the Trump era.

“In addition to querying applications more often, the Trump administration is targeting entry-level jobs offered to skilled foreigners. The lawyers say this violates the law governing H-1Bs, because it allows for visa holders to take entry-level jobs.

“Several attorneys said they view the increase in challenges and focus on entry-level jobs as a…campaign by the administration against the H-1B program in the absence of public regulatory changes or changes passed by Congress, which could be debated and decided in the open.

“…It is still unclear how the increase in challenges will affect the number of visas issued this year. In the 2016 fiscal year, USCIS approved 87 percent of H1-B petitions. By June 30 of this year, the agency had approved 59 percent of H-1B petitions, although that number is incomplete because it does not take into account the last three months of the 2017 fiscal year, when a large portion of H-1B applications are processed.

“…In an April executive order, Trump directed a review of the H1-B program, aimed at ensuring the visas ‘are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid’ applicants. The order itself did not implement changes but directed agencies to suggest reforms.

“…Many of the government challenges for visas for entry-level jobs either say that the salary should be higher because the job is too complex or that the job does not count as a ‘specialty’ occupation, as required by the H-1B program, according to a review of hundreds of RFEs by the American Immigration Lawyers Association provided to Reuters.

“…Lawyers question the implicit argument advanced by USCIS in the challenges - that specialty jobs cannot be entry-level. They point to young doctors and engineers, for instance, who may not have work experience but have spent years learning technical skills.

“Though the challenges can come across all industries, the AILA review showed software developers and computer systems analysts were challenged more often than other jobs.”

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