The Impact of Today’s Visa Restrictions on the Already Tight US Talent Pool

What is already becoming a dire professional talent shortage which is severely and negatively affecting companies across the United States, is steadily becoming worse as the Trump administration continues to roll out its anti-immigration policies.  Policies which are making it increasingly difficult for foreign born scientists and engineers to gain H-1B visas and other employer-sponsored visas in order to gain legal and gainful employment in the U.S. 

The national aggregate level of inflows of foreign Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics workers between 1990 and 2010 coincides with a 30%-50% productivity growth that occurred in the US during that same time frame.  And, in fact, studies show that the entry of H-1B visa holders actually increases the wages of Americans and not, as many claim, lowers US wages.

Approximately 80% of full-time graduate students in computer science, electrical engineering and other STEM degree courses at U.S. universities are international students and would continue to provide enormous benefits to the country moving forward.  However, soon after the Trump Administration took office and the “Buy American and Hire American” presidential executive order on April 18, 2017 came into effect, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) start to increase both the Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials for H-1B petitions for high-skilled foreign born professionals, according to a report issued by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). 

The impact cited by the NFAP for the period since the order was signed through the end of the second quarter of 2018 is as follows:

H-1B Petition Denial Rate

3rd quarter 2017                15.9%

4th quarter 2017               22.4%

1st quarter 2018                 30.5%

2nd quarter 2018                29.2%

However, another new policy that was recently implemented by the USCIS would allow their adjudicators to deny applications without a Request for Evidence or giving employers a chance to correct information on applications.

The entire policy is an attempt of a broader based administration plan to prevent high skilled foreign nationals to work in the United States.  The harsh consequences of this and other polices, such as Notices to Appear, are many and affect both US companies and worker alike.  

--  Corporations will lose a highly skilled talent pool with competencies that in many cases are prevalent in a certain ethnic groups;

--  Foreign-born scientists or engineers being placed in deportation proceedings if their H-1B or other application is denied – and due to longer and longer processing times, their status expires

--  The H-4 visa rule which previously allowed an H-1B’s spouse to work, being rescinded – which could hit tens of thousands of Indian women in the US, especially.

Companies are already finding themselves in a highly precarious talent shortage economy.  The impact of the visa restriction policies that have been implemented thus far are already being felt and this will only be exacerbated as the policy takes full effect and rains down on the 80% of STEM graduate students as a significant number will be denied H-1B visa status to work in the US.