Immigration was a hot-button issue during the 2016 presidential election campaign, and this was especially true in border states like Arizona. Donald Trump vowed to tighten immigration laws and deport illegal aliens if elected, and data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reveals that his administration has taken steps to make securing H1-B visas more difficult for foreign workers. Between January and August, the number of H1-B visa applications rose by only 3 percent compared with the same period in 2016. However, the 85,000 challenges to these applications issued by USCIS represents a 45 percent increase over the number issued a year ago under the Obama administration.
Challenges to H1-B visa applications are also known as requests for evidence, and they can add months to already long processing times. Many employers rely on H1-B visa applicants to handle specialized work that they say few Americans have the training or experience to perform, but critics say the program is being exploited. They claim employers could find local workers but choose instead to look overseas to save money.
USCIS challenges also appear to be affecting approval rates for H1-B applicants. The agency approved 87 percent of the H1-B applications it received during the 2016 fiscal year, but that figure has since plummeted to 59 percent. However, experts say that this figure may increase during the fourth quarter when a large number of H1-B applications are processed. Legal and administrative costs also increase when requests for evidence are issued, and this can place additional financial and emotional strain on applicants.
The USCIS often challenges H1-B applications when the compensation being offered to applicants seems low for the work involved or the job being offered does not meet the program's requirements. Attorneys with experience in U.S. immigration law may seek to avoid challenges by ensuring that H1-B applications are filled out completely and correctly and supported by relevant documentation. Attorneys could help employers to develop foreign worker policies that fit H1-B program guidelines and meet federal requirements.