SAN FRANCISCO: International graduates and relevant companies in the United States are anxiously waiting for the government’s next move on H-1B work visas as U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier on social media that “positive changes are coming soon.”
“Since 2017, it’s been more difficult for international students to obtain H-1B visas,” said Gong Shiyang on Tuesday, an immigration lawyer and CEO of a Silicon Valley-based tech company AILaw Inc.
The controversial H-1B visa program allows U.S. companies to hire foreign graduates on visas that can last for as long as six years, while President Trump issued a “Buy American and Hire American” executive order and instructed a review of the system in 2017.
The tech industry, especially companies in Silicon Valley, relies heavily on the H-1B program though critics accused some companies of abusing the program by replacing U.S. workers with cheap foreign labor. A recent survey of companies in Silicon Valley suggested that about 40 percent of respondents said the visa restrictions had a negative impact on them.
Although no concrete policy changes have been made to the program in the last two years, applications have experienced tightened restrictions, such as more denials, a delayed process, and a suspension of expedited processing.
According to the National Foundation for American Policy, the denials of H-1B visa applications spiked 41 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2017.
“Some students who have not gotten approved for H-1B visas are even considering giving up the opportunities and returning home. Some of them have waited several months while not able to work in the meantime,” Gong said.
Paul Min, a student at Foothills College in California, told Xinhua in a recent interview that job opportunities for international students have diminished remarkably in the last two years.
He said five or six of his friends had landed a job but were not lucky enough to win the H-1B visa lottery. The lottery system was introduced because demand for the visa often exceeds the supply.
Every year, 65,000 H-1B visas are granted, with another 20,000 reserved for those who hold advanced degrees from U.S. higher education institutions, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Most of the students want to work in the United States after graduation at least to gain some experience, but employers won’t hire you if they know you may not get the work visa,” said the student.
Min saw some hope in the Trump’s recent message tweeted on Jan. 11, saying “It’s a good sign. Overall, it may not be that bad as we had expected.” (Xinhua)