Getting an H-1B visa extension is now a bit more difficult

This article looks at changes to the H-1B visa program, including new scrutiny being applied to extension requests.

The H-1B visa has long been a popular program and, with only 85,000 such visas available each year, it is one of the most difficult visas to get. Many companies, especially technology companies that rely on highly skilled workers that are not always easy to find in the United States, have come to rely on the program. However, the current Trump administration has long criticized H-1B visa as part of its "Buy American, Hire American" agenda. Now, the H-1B visa is being subjected to more regulations, with visa extensions facing increased scrutiny and a bill currently making its way through Congress that would make it harder for some companies to hire H-1B visa holders.

Visa extensions face scrutiny

As CNN reports, the first significant change to the H-1B visa program came in October when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent out a memo to its officers advising them to subject H-1B visa extension applications to the same level of scrutiny as is applied to initial applications.

Previously, getting an H-1B visa extension was largely straightforward since USCIS officers were allowed to defer to the original application decision. An extension would typically only get denied if there was a significant change in the key elements of the initial application or evidence of serious error or fraud. Now, every time an H-1B visa holder applies for an extension, he or she will face the same level of scrutiny as during their initial application. That will likely mean that getting an extension will take much longer and will put visa holders and their employers through quite a bit more stress.

Changes coming for some employers

More big changes could also be on their way for the H-1B visa program. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, a bill recently moved out of the House Judiciary Committee that targets "H-1B dependent companies." If the bill becomes law, it would define an H-1B dependent company as being a company where at least 20 percent of employees are H-1B visa holders.

The bill would raise the minimum salary for H-1B visa holders from $60,000 to $90,000. Additionally, it requires companies to provide detailed reports to the U.S. Department of Labor about their efforts to hire American workers and why American applicants for available jobs are turned down. While the bill is not the only one to address the H-1B program, so far it has advanced further than others in Congress.

Immigration law help

Immigration law is in a state of flux right now and whether it is H-1B visa holders, DACA recipients, or anybody else with an immigration concern, it is important to reach out to an attorney. Not knowing one day from the next how laws affecting one's status may change can be stressful, but an experienced immigration attorney can help clients see clearly what their rights are and how to go about protecting their status.