US court strikes down key Trump admin decisions behind H-1B denials
A US court has struck down key Trump administration memos and decisions behind soaring denial of H-1B visas, sending a wave of relief through IT services companies that use foreign workers, a large number of whom are from India. They have faced intense pushback and pressure in recent years.
These memos had sent up the rate of denial of H-1Bs from 2% in 2015 to 30% for some companies, according to an analysis of government data by an independent body.
The court of a district judge in Washington DC on Tuesday struck down memos used by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prevent companies from hiring foreign workers on H-1B visas for third-party work — outsourced operations in other words, and required employers to produce contract details for which the H-1B had been petitioned. The court also directed the agency to provide reasons while rejecting an H-1B petition.
“A decision like this has been long overdue, we finally have the judicial system agreeing with the employers that USCIS has been out of bounds for a long time,” said Amar Varada, president of ITServe, an association of more than 1,200 IT solutions and services organization, whose challenge led to the Tuesday ruling.
The United States issues 85,000 H-1B visas annually to highly skilled foreign workers on petitions from US companies to make up for a shortage of locally available hands. Critics of the programme have argued it has been used to displace American workers by contracting out their work to foreigners.
Denial of initial applications for H-1B visas and renewal applications has gone up under the Trump administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” policy. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), an independent body that closely tracks immigration issues, denial rates have generally risen from 6% in 2015 to 21% in 2019 for new petitions; and from 3% to 12% for continuing employment, renewals in other words.
The agency also found that the denial rate for new employment had gone up to 30% in 2019 for IT services and consulting companies in comparison to between 2% and 7% for technology product companies such as Apple.
“The (new) ruling applies to all companies. However, its largest impact will be felt by companies that need to send an H-1B visa holder to a customer’s site, because it was in those cases that new USCIS policies were being used to either deny an H-1B petition or approve it for only a short period of time,” said Stuart Anderson, executive director of NFAP.