Changes to the H-1B under Trump’s administration

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The H-1B Visa allows for highly skilled personnel to be employed in the United States. However, there is a cap on how many applicants can obtain an H-1B Visa every year. Currently there are 65,000 Visas reserved for those who hold a bachelor’s degree or specialized skill in a field and an additional 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for those who hold a master’s degree or higher. The appeal of the H-1B visa is that it offers a path to citizenship for many that would have no other options.

However, President Trump has implemented policies such as the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order he signed in April of 2018. This policy directs the Department of Homeland security to issue H-1B visas only to the most-skilled foreigners and highest-paid beneficiaries. Because of this policy, the USCIS has already begun to increase H-1B denials and requests for evidence. The impact of these sweeping denials and RFEs has been felt throughout many industries. The National Foundation for American Policy reports “Employers report the time lost due to the increase in denials and Requests for Evidence has cost millions of dollars in project delays and contract penalties, while aiding competitors that operate exclusively outside the United States.”

Another speed-bump in the H-1B process is the suspension of premium processing for H-1B petitions. Premium Processing is an optional service on many visa petitions where the applicant pays an additional processing fee and the USCIS will answer the petition within 15 days. Premium Processing is available to visas such as the O-1, L-1, and H-1B. However, in August 2018 the Trump administration suspended premium processing to all H-1B visa petitions until February 2019. There are currently talks of re-instituting this suspension, thus slowing down the H-1B process for all who would have opted into it.

Furthermore, proposed changes would have the visa caps flipped, severely limiting H-1B’s to anyone with a bachelor’s degree. These proposed changes would have 65,000 Visas reserved for those who hold a master’s degree or higher, while only 20,000 H-1B Visas would be available for those with a bachelors degree or specialized skill.

It’s not all bad news for H-1Bs, another proposed change would require petitioners seeking an H-1B to register electronically with the USCIS prior to submitting an application. Petitioners would then be informed if they were selected for the lottery, and at that point the employer would be able to file the H-1B application. This would cut down on the cost of applications as the current system requires everyone to submit a full H-1B petition prior to knowing whether they have been selected for the lottery. Additionally, moving to an electronic system is expected to speed up the petition process for everyone, possibly even reducing the need for premium processing.

Having an experienced legal team handle your immigration matter is more important than ever in this turbulent political climate. The Trump administration and the USCIS are making the visa application process increasingly difficult. Contact the team of immigration experts at SAPG Legal to find out how we can take away the stress of applying for an H-1B visa


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