The following is based on an article in the San Francisco Chronicle

Foreign Nationals who were once considered solid candidates for an H-1B visa — those with multiple degrees, high salaries offered by major tech companies – are receiving extra scrutiny and delays on their applications.

Thousands are also getting denied, prompting them to go home or revise their career plans.

More than twice as many H-1B applications were rejected in November compared with the same time last year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. The newly reported data show that the Trump Administration is acting on its promise to curtail a work program for foreigners that it says is rife with loopholes and abuse.

Immigration officials have ramped up their scrutiny of the visas through “requests for further evidence” (RFEs), which demand that employers offer further proof of why the applicant deserves a visa.

According to the data, 17.6 percent of 30,445 completed H-1B applications were denied in November. This compares with 7.7 percent denials of 30,161 completed applications in November 2016. From August to September, the proportion of applications that received a request for further evidence more than doubled to 37.9 percent, while the number of completed H-1Bs stayed nearly the same. By November, nearly half received RFEs.

 

The immigration agency’s director, Lee Francis Cissna, said in a statement that the increase in requests for evidence “reflects our commitment to protecting the integrity of the immigration system.”

“We understand that (requests for evidence) can cause delays, but the added review and additional information gives us the assurance we are approving petitions correctly,” he said.

However, even after we answer requests that average 300-400 pages, there is no distinct pattern of determining who is accepted and who is denied.

There are many reasons an application might be approved and another rejected, ranging from the proposed salary, the employer’s business/history and the applicant’s education level. H-1B visas are reserved for “specialty occupations,” which means a job that requires at least a bachelor’s degree.

We are seeing cases that have been traditionally approved, but are being questioned for a variety of reasons.  Our firm has been asked to justify why an accountant needs a bachelor’s degree or why a system’s analyst is a specialized occupation. Often the questions asked have already been amply covered in the initial petition.

On Thursday, the Trump administration published a list of legislative priorities for the coming year that included implementing a priority system for the cap lottery (which would overhaul its current random lottery) as well as changing the definition of who qualifies for an H-1B visa.

In our firm, out of approximately 80+ applications submitted, 42 were accepted as duly filed; and of those, we received 25 RFEs, one received a second RFE, and we have had one denial so far.

We have also found that the increased scrutiny (and resulting, additional costs and delays) is deterring companies and foreigners from using the program. For multinational companies, it might not mean hiring US Workers but hiring more overseas.

There are potential changes on the horizon for the H-1B program and the H-1B lottery. We will keep you abreast of any changes that occur as they are introduced.