Under a policy change announced by USCIS on Oct. 23, renewals of non-immigrant visas will undergo the same scrutiny as first-time applications. Before the policy update, officers could give deference to findings in previously approved applications when deciding on renewals, but now, even if the beneficiary and petitioner are unchanged, officers must treat extension requests the same as new applications.
According to NBC News, supporters of the policy contend that it advocates the interests of American workers by making it more expensive and difficult for employers to renew the visas of foreign workers whom they’re sponsoring. Opponents, however, argue that the programs that are affected by the policy change, including the H-1B visa program, are essential for filling a talent gap and giving U.S. companies a competitive edge. Other visa holders such as L1A and L1B are also affected by the policy.
If you are living and working in the United States under the H-1B visa program, it is only natural to worry that the recent policy change will affect your ability to stay in the country. If you would like to discuss your concerns with an immigration attorney in New Jersey, contact my office today. Call the Law Office of Eric M. Mark at 973-453-2009 to schedule a free initial consultation.
How Many Workers Will Be Affected by the Policy Change?
It is not yet clear how many people will be affected by the policy change, but according to NBC News, it is likely to affect several hundred thousand workers. About 85,000 H-1B visas are issued each year and another 100,000 are extended or reissued, so the policy change could have far-reaching effects on an immense number of workers and the companies that employ them.
H-1B visas are issued to highly skilled workers in certain specialty occupations. In 2016, India and China received the vast majority of all H-1B visas issued—about 82 percent. Many of these workers were hired by major tech companies including Google and Facebook.
This is not the first policy introduced under the Trump Administration that threatened the H-1B visa program. Stock prices at Indian tech companies have been declining since Trump’s inauguration, and uncertainty about the H-1B program has played a major role in this downward trend.
Burden of Proof to Establish Visa Extension Eligibility Now Lies with Petitioner
Guidelines released by USCIS specify that the burden of proving eligibility for a visa extension will now lie with the petitioner rather than the agency. USCIS is essentially rescinding a 2004 policy that required officers to determine whether the facts in a visa renewal application were the same as the original.
This policy update is only the latest in a series of changes to U.S. immigration laws that are targeting both legal and illegal immigration. If you are concerned that recent policy changes will affect your ability to live and work in the United States, contact my office to discuss your situation.
As a Member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), I stay up to date on all changes to U.S. immigration laws, and I will use my extensive knowledge and experience to help you pursue your immigration goals. Call 973-453-2009 to schedule a consultation with an immigration lawyer in New Jersey.