The US H-1B visa program that allows educated foreign professionals to work in the United States is taking a hit under the Trump Administration. In 2019, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied about 15 percent of H-1B visa petitions, a notable shift from 2015 when the denial rate was 4 percent, a rate second only to L-1A and L-1B visas, which now have a 28 percent denial rate.

The Administration’s “put American workers first” policy seeks to improve Americans' welfare by reducing the inflow of low-paid labor. Toward that end, within the realm of work visas, the Administration adopted two approaches. First, the review process of H-1B visa applications has become stricter, leading to an increase in the number of requests for evidence (RFE) and, ultimately, visa denials. Second, the former H-1B visa lottery was suspended, further reducing access to H-1B visas. 

You may conclude that the odds of obtaining an H-1B visa are best for only the most gifted, skilled and highly paid workers. That’s true. But it’s also true that while American companies may prefer to hire unskilled staff from abroad under the H-1B program for the sake of lower labor costs, most of these visas are issued to specialists in technical design and programming. And it's in that disconnect that we start to understand why tech industry giants so often publicly at odds with President Trump have a lot to lose under this new policy and will likely lobby strongly for adjustments in the months to come.

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