U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its guidance for work visas, potentially complicating the lives of highly skilled foreign workers who rely on the H-1B program.
The updated guidance, slated to take effect Sept. 11, will allow USCIS to reject applications and petitions without asking for a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). “This policy is intended to discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete filings used as ‘placeholder’ filings and encourage applicants, petitioners, and requestors to be diligent in collecting and submitting required evidence,” the agency wrote in a statement.
In other words, anyone applying for a work visa must submit as much supporting evidence as possible, or risk rejection. In a similar vein, even minor mistakes on an application could potentially lead to dismissal and deportation. (Data suggests that rejections are already on the rise.)
While USCIS and the Trump administration have advocated for a drastic reform of the H-1B system, changes have largely been incremental. And although some critics of the H-1B program assumed that President Trump, upon entering office, would quickly curtail the number of visas, the number of H-1B petitions and approvals has only continued to rise. In fiscal 2017, the number of petitions approved hit a four-year high.
Over the past year and a half, USCIS has imposed additional scrutiny on visa applications and renewals, while the White House has moved to ban spouses of H-1B visa holders from obtaining the H-4 visas that would allow them to work in the United States. Concerned that the federal government isn’t doing enough, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) filed a lawsuit against USCIS in April, seeking data on the top employers (both corporate and nonprofit) utilizing H-1B visas.
If the White House did attempt to severely restrict the number of H-1B visas, it would face substantial pushback from tech companies that rely on foreign workers. The Mercury News recently surveyed Bay Area residents about H-1B, and found that 71 percent thought that the number of H-1B visas issued annually should be kept the same or increase. That’s the epicenter of Silicon Valley, and perhaps indicative of tech giants’ attitudes toward the policy. Tech CEOs such as Apple’s Tim Cook have also advocated strongly for immigration.
For the time being, it seems that the federal government is content with policy updates. Will that change at some point?