Trump administration brings H-1B visa down on its knees

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NEW YORK – Legal immigration is being legally hounded by the Trump administration. Work visas are still being doled out, but denials and revocations of the H-1B visa is skyrocketing.

More employers today, who want to hire foreign labor, are finding the immigration process complicated, tedious, and frustrating. Many give up, try to seek workers locally. That’s easier said than done, though. There are 7.5 million available jobs currently unfilled in the United States, most of it in the technology sector, for paucity of talent.

Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order is having its effect, but many tech businesses especially are finding it hard to get the right worker domestically.

The Mercury News reported this week that the number of approvals for new and renewed H-1B visas fell sharply in 2018, according to new government data. And so far this year, approvals for the visa have continued to decline.

The number of approvals fell to 335,000 in fiscal year 2018 from 373,400 in the prior fiscal year — a 10 percent drop, according to government’s 2018 Statistical Annual Report.

The declining approvals come amid a crackdown by the Trump administration, that has seen the denial rate for new H-1B visas skyrocket, with nearly one in four requests rejected, the highest rate in almost a decade, noted the Mercury News.

“This administration has aggressively pursued strategies to clamp down on use of the H-1B program, and these efforts are now showing in the data,” Migration Policy Institute analyst Sarah Pierce, was quoted as saying.

Bloomberg Law reported on the quandary of Comtrix Solutions Inc., a Virginia-based health care staffing company, who got approval to bring in skilled foreign workers on H-1B visas for several clients in October 2018, six months after it applied.

But by that time, the original clients had moved on because they couldn’t wait that long for workers whose appearance wasn’t even guaranteed. When the government caught wind of the change, it accused Comtrix of lying about where the workers would be placed and revoked the H-1B petitions on the grounds of fraud, the report said.

“There’s no question that there are cases, H-1B petitions, that have been approvable for the last 20 years that aren’t approvable today,” H. Ronald Klasko of Klasko Immigration Law Partners in Philadelphia, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg Law. “The law hasn’t changed, just their standards.”

There are no publicly available records on how often H-1Bs are revoked. But “revocations are now starting to be as common as denials,” which shot up to a total of 15.5% of all petitions decided in fiscal year 2018 from 7.4 percent the prior year, said Bradley Banias of Barnwell Whaley Patterson & Helms in Charleston, S.C.

The hard hitting approach to the H-1B visa by the Trump administration is not only bringing prospective employers and foreign workers on their knees, it’s also sounding the death knell for what is the easiest way to work and settle down in the US: applications for the visa is on a downward spiral, by outsourcing companies.

The Times of India reported this week that Cognizant CFO Karen McLoughlin said the company is applying some 70-80% fewer H-1B visas than what it used to. Last year, Ernst & Young filed the most H-1B visa applications, at 151,164. Deloitte and Cognizant had 69,869 and 47,732 respectively. Going by what McLoughlin revealed, Cognizant might apply for only around 8,000 H-1B visas this year.

Discerning entrepreneurs are calling out the Trump administration’s stance against the H-1B visa.

Scott Anderson, CEO and president of Zions Bank, in an opinion column in the Deseret News, entitled, ‘Keep Utah’s economy vibrant by improving H-1B visa system,’ noted that The Hatch Center, along with FWD.us, recently released a study showing that modernizing the H-1B visa program would “grow the economy, foster innovation, and create new American jobs.”

“The report encourages commonsense, bipartisan changes to our high-skilled immigration policy,” Anderson wrote.

The study recorded that the nation’s high-skilled immigration system has not been updated for more than 25 years, despite a major shift to a high-tech economy needing dramatically higher numbers of skilled workers.

Anderson wrote that FWD.us and the Hatch Center found that, “America’s ability to attract, educate, and employ the world’s greatest talent has created a workforce pipeline that has fueled our economy, and we must continue to replenish that pipeline with fresh ideas and skill-sets from around the globe.”

That’s great. Try telling that to the Trump administration. They will surely agree on America drawing the world’s greatest talent. They don’t really care for bringing that talent home.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)  

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