Jul 25, 2018

Trump’s “Hire American” order makes it harder to get H-1B visas

Trump before signing the Buy American, Hire American executive order. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Immigration officials required more information from high-skilled H-1B visa applicants last year, and denied 22% in the last quarter — up 41% from the previous quarter, according to a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy.

The big picture: The number of denials and "requests for evidence" (RFE) began to climb following President Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" executive order signed in April of last year. While employers of H-1B workers often talk anecdotally about how much harder it's been to get their applications approved, this new data highlights a potential impact of the administration's crackdown.

By the numbers:

  • There was a 41% increase in denials between the 3rd and 4th quarter — from 15.9% in Q3 to 22.4% Q4.
  • In Q3 2017, 23% of completed cases required "requests for evidence" (RFE). That number jumped to 69% in the Q4.
  • There were almost as many RFEs in the 4th quarter as in all three other quarters combined.
  • The last quarter under the Obama administration (Q1 2017) only had RFE for 17% of cases, compared to the 69% at the end of Trump's first fiscal year.
  • Indian H-1B applicants saw even stricter scrutiny in the last quarter, with 72% of their applications requiring additional evidence in Q4, compared to 61% of other nationalities.

Key quote: "This increase is significant and is clearly attributable to [Buy American Hire American] and the Administration’s desire to restrict legal immigration," Mark Roberts, CEO of TechServe Alliance, which works to outsource needed H-1B workers to American companies, told Axios.

  • He said that in the IT and engineering sector, he's seen an almost 100% RFE rate and an increased denial rate where it was previously near zero.

The other side: Proponents of cutting back legal immigration argue that these visas take high-paying jobs from American workers and often accuse companies of using H-1B visas to pay workers less. They view the actions of the Trump administration simply as better law enforcement.

Go deeper: How Trump is making it harder to get a visa

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