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Recently Released USCIS Documents Demonstrate Effects of Trump-Era H1B Restrictions

After the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) settled a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, documents which were required to be made public showed an increase in H1B application denials and request for evidences. According to a National Foundation for American Policy analysis, “denial rates for H1B petitions have increased significantly, rising from 6% in FY 2015 to 32% in FY 2019” – that is a denial rate of nearly one in three petitions for high-skilled foreign workers.

These documents, hidden from the public until the settlement, explain how USCIS policies implemented under President Trump and the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order have increased denials and requests for evidence, and how USCIS adjudicators have been able to restrict approvals of H1B petitions without legal or regulatory authority to make these decisions. As outlined by a Forbes report on the documents, USCIS leaves out supporting legal authority for many of their actions, and have increasingly implemented policies which hurt Information Technology service companies; H1B denials for new employment “reached 50% or higher for several companies that provide Information Technology services to assist U.S. companies in transforming their digital platforms”. Other disclosures from the documentation include policies that may harm all types of employers of H1B holders, and how redactions in documents undermine USCIS’ claims to “transparency”.

The documentation shows what many companies who seek to employ H1B employees have already seen in action – that USCIS has increased the burden on businesses who seek to employ H1B individuals, and subsequently makes U.S. businesses less competitive if they need to hire high-skilled foreign nationals to provide their services.

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