Tech Worker Visas Getting Stricter Scrutiny



Plagued by growing complaints of fraud and abuse, America’s so-called high-tech visa program is getting closer scrutiny from federal agents, and more rejections.

After cruising through the first few months of the Trump administration, H-1B applications for foreign workers are hitting new roadblocks, ranging from increased requests for additional documentation to outright denials.

From July 1-Sept. 30, 2017, the RFE (Request for Evidence) rate jumped to 69 percent of all H-1B petitions, with more than 20 percent denied, according to the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy.

By comparison, only 17 percent of H-1B petitions were subjected to RFEs during President Obama’s last months in office. That means RFEs soared more than 400 percent within nine months of President Donald Trump moving into the White House.

Going forward, tougher vetting appears to be having an effect: H-1B applications for fiscal 2019 are down, even as the U.S. economy heats up.

H-1B visas are available to foreign nationals “to perform services in a specialty occupation, services of exceptional merit and ability.” Over the years, parameters have expanded to include fashion models and other not-so-high-tech endeavors.

Some 65,000 H-1Bs are allotted each year for workers with bachelor’s degrees, and 20,000 more are earmarked for those with master’s degrees or higher. Universities and research organizations are exempt from the caps.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the program, admits that H-1B has had problems.

“Too many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged,” USCIS states on its website.

Over the past year, USCIS has received over 5,000 e-mails reporting various forms of fraud, abuse and wage slavery involving H-1Bs.

In a recent court case, federal prosecutors say a dozen Indian nationals at a San Francisco area tech firm were promised salaries of up to $8,300 a month, but after the company imported them via H-1Bs, they were paid as little as $800. 

The USCIS crackdown on H-1B scams took hold after Trump issued his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order in April 2017. The order doesn’t end the H-1B program, but attempts to mend it by enforcing legal standards that ensure U.S. workers come first. As the president directed: 

“To create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry into the United States of workers from abroad.”

Last summer, FAIR quoted a federal official as saying H-1B “is going on as it was. In fact, we issued more H-1B visas to Indians this year than we did last year.”

He’s not saying that any more.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

5 Comments

  1. avatar

    You really make it appear so easy with your presentation but I in finding this
    matter to be really one thing that I believe I’d by no means understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely wide for me. I’m looking forward to your next submit, I will attempt
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  2. avatar

    LOL…Information Technology Work Needs

    Doesn’t work like science and engineering….its more random number or hacker skills….like magicians and witchcraft…

    This field needs more American citizen high school kids hired at a decent pay.

  3. avatar

    It’s quite simply a lie that there is any “shortage” of American tech workers. There are numerous examples, including Southern California Edison and Disney, where American workers were replaced with H1B workers and forced to train the new workers if they expected a compensation package. The Census Bureau statistics are clear. The majority of American STEM college graduates do not have a job in the field in which they have a degree. It’s also a little known fact that a lot of the foreigners admitted on H1B visas end up working in other fields.

    It’s all about the money. There is no difference between the robber barons of the late 19th century and the tech barons of now. They want mass immigration to lower wages so they can pay peanuts while the workers fight for the scraps. Jeff Bezos uses his mouthpiece Washington Post to promote more immigration, while his employees work like dogs in all the businesses he now owns.

  4. avatar

    ‘Bout time – twenty-eight years too late! This program has been used to kick Americans to the curb from its inception – Congress was bribed so that employers could replace us with Cheap Labor. This was a ‘temporary’ solution to a problem – a so-called “labor shortage” that didn’t exist. Salaries and temp labor rates for IT workers had been rising to middle-class levels during the 1980’s and the employers were determined to DO something about THAT! Insurance co’s and banks simply couldn’t have their people earning enough to be homeowners! I was there at the time and saw how the job market for computer programmers immediately collapsed.

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