There can be no doubt that the Trump era has dealt a devastating blow to immigration, but perhaps the most affected individuals have been H-1B visa hopefuls and their employers.
Early on during the President’s administration, the President advocated for and implemented some of the most disastrous immigration policies ever seen—particularly because of the restrictive effect these polices have had in drastically reducing visa approvals for temporary workers.
Across the board, our office witnessed a staggering increase in the issuance of requests for evidence, and a high rate of denials for H-1B visa worker petitions, despite a highly qualified applicant base.
While these petitions were easily approved in past administrations, the reality began to set in that things would be much different under President Trump. Data has shown that from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2019, H-1B denial rates for new H-1B petitions increased drastically from 6 percent to 21 percent., while denial rates for H-1B visa extensions increased to 12 percent in fiscal year 2019.
Where did it all begin?
USCIS began to aggressively limit H-1B visa approvals following the passage of the President’s executive order “Buy American and Hire American” signed on April 18, 2017.
With this order, the President single-handedly targeted one of the most sought-after visa programs in the United States—the H-1B visa program for highly-skilled temporary foreign workers. The order specifically directed the Attorney General and Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security to suggest reforms to ensure that H-1B visas would only be approved for the most-skilled or highest-paid workers.
While the President’s restrictive policies on immigration gained him a loyal following, they ultimately narrowed the playing field significantly for prospective H-1B workers.
Buy American and Hire American effectively gave the Department of Homeland Security—and by extension the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services—a broad range of power to develop and enforce restrictive policies limiting the issuance of H-1B visas.
Thereafter, USCIS went to work producing rule-making, policy memoranda, and implementing operational changes to carry out the President’s agenda with the goal of drastically limiting approvals for H-1B workers.