Outlook for H-1B Visas in 2020
by Ray Law Immigration Group
The Department of Labor reports that in 2019, about 7.4 million jobs were available in the United States, while only about 6 million people were searching for new jobs. This labor shortage has been going on for more than a year, and many U.S. employers are actively seeking foreign workers to fill their employment needs. Specifically, employers are looking for specialty workers on H-1B visas to fill necessary positions. However, H-1B approvals have become harder and harder to obtain for many companies, and the problem might only increase in 2020.
H-1B Denial Rates
It has not gone unnoticed by companies or immigration advocacy groups that denial rates or Requests for Evidence (RFE) prior to approval have significantly increased under the current administration. Statistics indicate that denial rates for H-1B visas increased from six percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2019. Moreover, RFEs used to be rare, while now, about 60 percent of H-1B applications have an RFE. These increases are likely a direct result of the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order issued to immigration officials in 2017.
Immigration advocates recently obtained documents from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under a Freedom of Information Act request, and these documents include policies aimed at restricting the number of approved H-1B applications. Experts are challenging these restrictive policies for not being rooted in immigration law, though the policies are still in place while legal action is pending. Expect the increased denial rates and RFEs to continue into the New Year.
DHS Proposal to Increase Fees
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently proposed raising the fees for many types of immigration applications, including those for H-1B visas. If the proposal becomes a reality, H-1B applicants will see a 22 percent increase in fees - from $460 to $560. We will watch to see if this increase goes into effect.
H-4 EAD for H-1B Spouses
Spouses of H-1B visa holders can travel to the U.S. by obtaining an H-4 visa and, if they choose, can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that allows them to
also work while they are in the U.S. The federal government and USCIS have stated that eliminating the H-4 EAD will have a significant economic impact, as it will make those jobs available to domestic workers. There has been a proposal to eliminate this EAD on the table for a while with no decision reached.
Meanwhile, an advocacy group called Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit challenging the EAD in 2016, which was short-lived. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently revived the lawsuit, and a new ruling in 2020 could effectively end work authorization for H-1B spouses.
At Ray Law International, we assist employers and workers during the H-1B visa application process, and our goal is to help you obtain the visas you need, even in the changing immigration climate. Contact us online, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888.401.1016 to schedule a consultation today.