Changes to H-1B visa program will makes renewals tougher

Renewals for H-1B visas will now be subject to increased scrutiny, which will likely result in delays.

As CNN reports, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently made the process for renewing the popular H-1B visa, along with other employment visas, much tougher. USCIS advised its officers to treat H-1B renewals with the same amount of scrutiny as they would an initial visa application. The change will likely result in delays in renewing the H-1B visa, which the tech industry in particular has come to rely heavily upon. Critics say the move is unnecessarily punitive and leaves both immigrants and employers uncertain about their futures.

Increased scrutiny

The USCIS updated its guidance to officers responsible for approving visa renewals. Under the new guidelines, those applying for a renewal of an H-1B, L-1, TN, or O-1 visa will be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the initial visa applications are.

H-1B visas are especially popular, being used by highly skilled workers primarily in the tech industries. L-1 visas are for intracompany transfers, TN for Mexican and Canadian immigrants, and O-1 for those with exceptional abilities in the fields of arts, athletics, science, and business.

Under the previous guidelines, officers could defer to a previously approved visa when renewing that visa so long as the key elements of the renewal application were unchanged from the initial application and that during the initial application there had been no evidence of error or fraud. Deferring to previously approved visas allowed for relatively fast renewal times, meaning that those on one of the affected visas did not have to worry about their current visas expiring before USCIS came to a decision on their renewal applications.

Clamping down on visas

The tougher renewal standards are part of a broader attempt to crack down on immigration by the present federal administration. The administration has taken particular aim at the H-1B program, which it claims takes away high-paying jobs from American workers. However, defenders of the H-1B program claim employers rely on it in order to fill vacancies for which there are simply not enough qualified American candidates.

In fact, as Bloomberg BNA reports, employers already have to deal with very low odds that their H-1B applications will actually succeed. In 2017, for example, employers made 199,000 H-1B applications, most of which failed because the number of visas is capped at 85,000. Many in the tech industry say that the problem with H-1B program is not because of a lack of scrutiny on applicants, but because there are simply not enough visas being issued.

Immigration law help

For those who may have issues with a visa or their immigration status, it is important to talk to an immigration attorney as soon as possible. Immigration law is notoriously complex and the current political climate puts more pressure on immigrants than they have faced in decades. An experienced attorney can help those who have an immigration-related issue understand what options they may have and how best to resolve their case.