The H-1B visa is a temporary, non-immigrant visa issued to workers in “specialty occupations.” Through this visa, employers can sponsor certain, highly educated candidates to come to the U.S. to work for their company. The visa is valid for three years – with the possibility of extension for another three years. The H-1B visa system has been commonly used by many big-name American employers to attract highly skilled workers from around the world.

However, in recent years, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suddenly begun rejecting far more applications than ever before. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) recently released a report analyzing this trend.

The trend

In 2015, NFAP found that the denial rate of H1-B petitions for new employees was 6%. By the first quarter of 2019, the number of denials had jumped to 33%. In addition, it found that the denial rate for employees of information technology companies was especially high: over 40% in 2019.

A similar shift was discovered for H1-B visa renewals. The H-1B denial rate for existing employees was only 3% in 2015. In 2017, that number increased marginally to 5%. But in the first two quarters of 2019, it shot up to 14%.

Why the change?

The NFAP report points to possible causes of the recent change. It demonstrates how the changes in application handling correspond with new anti-immigration policies under the Trump administration. It also illustrates how, in recent years, USCIS its rewritten their own standards for how they determine whether there is enough evidence to support H1-B petitions. They began doing this without notifying the public and without any legal authority.

Ultimately, this trend is discouraging for workers and businesses alike. When we make it difficult for American businesses to hire the best and the brightest workers from around the world, we reduce our own competitive edge.

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