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Businesses notice more scrutiny of H-1B, other work visa programs

Although the Trump administration has stated a preference for employment-based rather than family-based immigration, it appears to be taking steps to limit some employment- and investment-based immigration programs. This includes additional scrutiny of H-1B applications and the virtual elimination of several other programs for skilled immigrants.

Last year, President Trump signed an executive order directing all government agencies to rigorously enforce employment-based immigration programs. The stated goal was to ensure that workers from abroad do not displace U.S. citizen workers. Specifically, the order called for changes to ensure that H-1B visa holders have skills that are unavailable in the U.S.

The administration has also increased scrutiny of H-1B applicants. Renewal applications, for example, must now be submitted in person. More proof is being required that the workers are highly skilled and highly paid, according to the Associated Press.

"We've got employees that are going through the process, who have gone through such a level of scrutiny and interrogatory that is unprecedented," said the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which utilizes and advocates for H-1B visas.

The USCIS says that 92.5 percent of H-1B applications are still being approved, while the rate under the Obama administration was just two points lower.

At the same time, the administration has indicated it may end the H-4 visa program, which allows the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work.

"I would like to make my own living. I am qualified and skilled," said one H-4 visa holder, a business analyst. "I'm not sure they understand that we are skilled immigrants."

The restrictions on skilled foreign workers extends to the STEM OPT program, which was expanded under the Obama administration. The program allows international students in STEM fields to work in the U.S. for up to three years after they graduate.

In addition, the administration has sought to end the international entrepreneur rule (IER) program. The program allows foreign entrepreneurs to work in the U.S. if they can obtain American funding for new start-up businesses. A federal judge ruled that the program must go into effect, but the USCIS has not approved any applications.

Whatever the rhetoric, the trend in employment-based immigration is toward more restrictions and higher scrutiny. If you are interested in an H-1B visa or another option for working in the United States, you should act now -- and you should work with an immigration attorney. Yew Immigration Law Group can help ensure your application is full and correct so that you can avoid unnecessary hurdles and delays.

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