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Business Roundtable decries arbitrary, inconsistent H-1B processing

Dozens of U.S. business leaders, including CEOs at top American companies, recently signed a joint letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. They expressed "serious concern" over several Trump administration immigration policies, focusing on those surrounding H-1B visas. The signatories of the joint letter included the heads of Apple, IBM, Salesforce, BlackRock, PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase and others.

The H-1B is a nonimmigrant, employment-based visa that many companies rely upon to hire computer engineers and other skilled professionals from abroad when they can't find qualified applicants at home.

The H-1B visa had been relatively uncontroversial until, in recent years, complaints arose that technology outsourcing firms were exploiting loopholes in the program to replace qualified American workers with lower-paid foreign workers. Nevertheless, it is a highly popular option both for skilled workers and for the U.S. companies that rely on them. Former H-1B visa holders abound in the nation's technology hubs, and the business community strongly supports the visa.

Yet the H-1B visa program seems to be under threat even though no legislation has been passed to restrict it. A recent analysis by the nonpartisan policy research group the National Foundation for American Policy discovered a sudden, sharp increase in requests for additional information and outright denials of H-1B visas.

Between the third and fourth fiscal quarters of 2017, the denial rate for H-1B visas jumped by 41 percent. During the same period, requests for additional information tripled. This may be the result of President Trump's "Buy American and Hire American" executive order.

In their letter to Nielsen, the Business Roundtable group claimed that these changes were "arbitrary and inconsistent" and put new, unneeded hurdles in place for visa applicants. Moreover, the changes are "causing considerable anxiety for many thousands of our employees while threatening to disrupt company operations."

The group specifically cited that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to revoke work authorizations for the spouses of H-1B visa holders. This "will likely cause high-skilled immigrants to take their skills to competitors outside the United States," the group wrote.

Some observers believe that the Trump administration is using intentional delays to institute a policy restricting H-1B visas without going through Congress.

"Step up investigations, slow things down, and you can accomplish your policy goals without legislation," said one public policy professor at Rutgers University.

Indeed, the response from the administration almost admits that. In a statement, it claimed to be "relentlessly pursuing necessary immigration reforms that move towards a merit-based system."

If you are seeking an H-1B visa or any employment-based visa, call Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people live and work in the United States.

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