Under the Trump administration, H-1B visas have been issued at decreasing rates ever since the president took office.
President Trump has long promised to prioritize immigrants with special skills and advanced educations. Now, it appears the commander-in-chief is again reneging on his agenda, complicating the pursuit of citizenship and permanent residency for legal aliens.
According to the Associated Press, getting an H-1B visa has never been a guarantee. Fewer than 100,000 are issued each year, usually going to workers from India and East Asia. But under President Trump, the approval process has become unbearably complicated.
“You see all these arguments that we want the best and brightest coming here,” said Ann Arbor-based immigration attorney John Goslow. “Yet we’re seeing a full-frontal assault on just all aspects of immigration.”
Luke Wilson, a Minneapolis resident and co-founder of an architecture firm, told the Associated Press that he’s struggled to find qualified workers in the United States. Experienced architects are in short supply, forcing businesses to turn to candidates overseas.
And Wilson says he and others prefer to hire domestically. Taking in H-1B workers is simply a matter of supply-and-demand, a last resort for employers desperate enough to pay legal fees and slog through the approval process.
“We’re just at the point where there’s no one else to hire,” Wilson said, telling the A.P. he’s turned down $1 million in projects this past year due to staffing shortages.
The Associated Press notes that Trump’s crusade against legal immigration began shortly after he assumed office. Only three months into his term, the president issued his ‘Buy American and Hire American’ executive order. It, among other things, directed Cabinet officials to push reforms that limit the issuance of H-1B visas to only the “most-skilled or highest-paid” applicants.
Later guidance, issued from the White House and beyond, has expanded discretion for officials denying applications without performing due diligence. In the past, individuals seeking to renew H-1B visas were accorded some preference; today, they’re seeing renewals stalled and caught behind red tape.
Immigration attorneys told the Associated Press that they’re seeing more “requests for evidence,” or RFEs.
RFEs, ordered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, can make ordinary visa allowances drag on for months. Requests for evidence can be demanded of prospective workers as well as their employers and range from demands to see college degrees to wage summaries.
“They’re just blocking the avenues so that employers will get frustrated and they won’t employ foreign nationals,” said Houston attorney Dakshini Sen, who’s caseload consists primarily of H-1B visa applications. “We have to write and write and write and explain and explain and explain each and every point.”
The Associated Press reports that RFEs have been issued at increasing rates from the last year of Obama’s presidency through the beginning of 2019.
USCIS spokesperson Jessica Collins said the dynamic is a consequence of Trump’s executive order. According to Collins, Immigration Services want to reduce “frivolous” applications, saying “it is incumbent upon the petitioner, not the government” to prove eligibility for H-1B visas.