US Immigration Policy

H-1b Denials Increase

It is being widely reported that the number of H-1b denials has increased dramatically during the past 3 months as the Trump edict to limit legal immigration has taken root. Recently the New York Times ran a sobering op-ed piece on this subject.

International Students Impacted by the Trump Administration

The New York Times recently reported on the decline in the number of international students attending U.S. schools and the negative political atmosphere and the repeated attacks on legal immigrants by the current Administration, is clearly the primary cause. The immediate impact is to U.S. schools but, the longer term impact is to U.S. employers particularly in the STEM fields where there is already a severe shortage of qualified workers. As many report, the short sightedness of U.S. immigration policy is a boon to countries such as Canada, Australia, and others.

H-1b Dependent Bill Moves

The Issa sponsored bill HR 170 which changes the rules that dependent employers must follow in order to employ H-1b workers has passed out of Committee and will now go to the full House floor. We will be reviewing the full text and providing further updates as soon as possible. Although the prospects of any immigration legislation passing out of this Congress is dim, we are still carefully monitoring the movement of any legislation.

The End of Deference

The USCIS has announced that it is ending its long standing policy of giving deference to a prior decision in the context of non-immigrant extension petitions filed without any changes. As international employers can attest, there has been no deference in the context of L-1 cases for many years. In the H-1b context, this means that a degree which met the H-1b standards 3 years ago may now not meet the standards. Instead of providing certainty to the immigration process, the USCIS now has the justification to call into question its own prior adjudicatory decisions and second guess itself. Ever wonder why the USCIS is imposing such policies that seem to have no basis in logic, deviate from basic legal principles, and change long-standing policies; look no further than the background of the Trump appointees. As but, one example, consider, Julie Kirchner, a key executive at the USCIS and former Executive Director of FAIR, an organization squarely in the corner of the anti-legal immigration advocates. When a governmental agency that is tasked with following the laws written by Congress and fairly adjudicating benefits has a clear objective to do otherwise, it should be no surprise that we see policies such as this.

White House Attacks Legal Immigration

Earlier this week the White House released it’s Immigration Principles and Policies, making it very clear that it intended to reduce legal immigration, eliminate employer sponsorship of visas and green cards, and drastically change the current immigration system. The WH has previously announced support for the RAISE Act which is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The system proposed by the WH eliminates wage protections for US workers and eliminates the labor market test designed to only allow legal immigration where there is a proven labor shortage. The short-sightedness of the WH approach is mind-boggling but, of course, the assumption being made is that the WH understands the ramifications of its principles and policies and we all know the old saying about assumptions.

Skills Gap

As the White House prepares to unveil its immigration policy and its call for a significant reduction in legal immigration, it is nice to be reminded of the role which legal immigration aids in bridging the skills gap experienced by U.S. employers.

I-485 Interviews for Employment Based Cases

Yesterday, the USCIS announced that it would begin to require in-person interviews as part of the I-485 process for persons being sponsored by an employer. For over ten (10) years these interviews have generally been waived unless there were issues such as criminal, unauthorized employment, periods of out of status, etc. Under the new policy, interviews will be required in all cases. For an agency that is already short of manpower and money, this change will likely result in delays of many years. Not to be too cynical but, this appears to have no purpose but, to be another attack on legal immigration and create another chilling effect.

Advance Parole and Travel

Recently, the USCIS began to deny advance parole applications if the person traveled internationally while the AP application was pending. For many years, the USCIS had continued to adjudicate and approve AP’s if you traveled as long as you were on an H or L visa however, that policy has now changed (without any notice). The American Immigration Lawyers Assoc. (AILA) contacted USCIS HQ and they responded with “the denials were proper; the policy is that traveling internationally while an application for advance parole is pending will result in the denial of that application notwithstanding prior practice to the contrary” Please be aware of this change.

STEM workers in the U.S.

Recently, the American Immigration Council, provided some data on the profile of STEM workers in the U.S. I assume that Stephen Miller and his ilk chose to ignore this type of data when they proposed the RAISE Act or more likely they consider this data “fake news”.

Latest on Trump’s Immigration Reform

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, President Trump endorsed a new bill in the Senate aimed at slashing legal immigration levels, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act. This bill is a modified version of a bill senators Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) first introduced in April to cut immigration by half from the current level of more than 1 million green cards per year. To achieve this reduction and create what they call a “merit-based system,” Cotton and Perdue are taking aim at green cards for extended family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, limiting such avenues for grown children and siblings. Minor children and spouses would still be eligible to apply for green cards.

The highlights of the Senators’ bill propose to end the visa diversity lottery that awards 50,000 green cards a year, to areas in the world that traditionally do not have as many immigrants to the United States. The bill also caps refugee levels at 50,000 per year. Under the bill, the proposed immigration system would award points to green card applicants based on such factors as English ability, education levels and job skills. The senators said the proposal is modeled after immigration programs in Canada and Australia.

However, the bill’s prospects are dim in the Senate where Republicans hold a narrow majority. The legislation is expected to face fierce resistance from congressional Democrats, immigrant rights groups and business leaders, as well as, some moderate Republicans in states with large immigrant populations. Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the CATO Institute, wrote in a blog that the bill “would do nothing to boost skilled immigration and it will only increase the proportion of employment-based green cards by cutting other green cards. Saying otherwise is grossly deceptive marketing.”