Reuters reported that data provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows that between Jan.1 and Aug. 31 of this year, USCIS issued 85,000 challenges or “requests for evidence” (RFEs) to H-1B petitions. This is a 45% increase compared to the same period last year which only issued around 59,000 RFEs.
The USCIS issues challenges when they believe an employer does not qualify for the visa. It is up to the employer and their lawyers to provide further evidence of their need and eligibility for H-1B visas. A challenge to a visa petition can push back the issuance of the visa by months and almost double the cost due to extra legal fees. This year RFEs have been issued at a higher rate than any year in the Obama administration, except for 2009.
“What the Trump administration has done for the first time in a very long time is take seriously the fact that companies are misusing the H-1B system,” said Russell Harrison, director of government relations at IEEE-USA, the American branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
A review of hundreds of RFEs by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, conducted by Reuters, suggested that the Trump administration is targeting H-1B visas for lower paying and entry level positions. Many of the challenges said that the salary for the jobs should be higher or the job does not qualify as a “specialty” occupation that is requirement of the H-1B visa.
“An RFE may be justified if the wage level is not appropriate for the position,” said Robert Langston, the USCIS spokesman. In an email to Reuters he also said that the agency is applying, “currently existing policy that interprets existing statutory and regulatory requirements to evaluate petitions.”
This increase in challenges comes after Pres. Trump issued his ‘Hire American, Buy American’ executive order in April, which ordered USCIS to review the H-1B visa program and aimed to protect American workers.
"The H-1B visa program should help U.S. companies recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country. Yet, too many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged," the Department of Homeland Security said in April.
"Protecting American workers by combating fraud in our employment-based immigration programs is a priority."
Read more on this story at Reuters.com.
Updated: Wed, Oct 4th 2017 @ 2:35pm EDT