USCIS 'not considering' change to H-1B extensions
- After much speculation, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed it is "not considering a regulatory change" to the section of the H-1B visa program, section 104(c) of AC-21, which allows extensions to visa holders "beyond the six-year limit," wrote Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for USCIS, in a statement to CIO Dive.
- However, even if extensions were in jeopardy, Withington noted that employers have the ability to request extensions for visa holders at one-year increments, as stated in section 106(a)-(b) of AC21.
- Though there are still other policy changes under consideration following the Trump administration's Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, the USCIS cannot disclose "any part of the pre-decisional processes," according to Withington.
The Trump administration took a hardline approach to immigration policy, and the H-1B program was expected to be impacted. Companies struggled to fill 2.4 million STEM jobs in 2017, and any major changes to the visa program jeopardizes the talent reservoir.
Since last year's inauguration, the number of visa applications declined while the number of requests for evidence (RFE) increased by 44%. The increase in RFEs ultimately slows the evaluation process of applicants because further investigation of individuals are needed.
Additionally, the H-4 visa, which allows the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the U.S., is also up for negotiation. Critics of the H-4 visa claim it takes work away from Americans, but the purpose is to attract more foreign talent, according to the USCIS.
However, the uncertainty of the program's direction is forcing some companies to review their business model in case of significant changes. Because of the 15% drop in applications last year, employers had less than a 50% chance of making the lottery.
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