Introducing Arrivals, a weekly series that highlights three of the biggest stories in U.S. immigration news from that week.
THE STORY: The Trump administration is making it more difficult for legal immigrants to live and work in the U.S. Businesses from hotels to tech companies are saying they are having trouble filling roles with the foreign employees they usually rely on.
THE CONTEXT: Trump made it clear on the campaign trail he wanted to reduce legal immigration to the U.S., vowing to essentially halt the H-1B visa program. Fast forward to April 2017, Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, which asked government officials to further enforce existing immigration laws. A recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that in the final three months of the 2017 fiscal year, after Trump’s executive order, the H-1B visa denial rate increased by 41%.
WHAT’S NEXT: With the U.S. recently announcing that it would extend the temporary suspension of premium processing for some H-1B visas, which allowed workers to expedite the process, impediments to securing work visas don’t appear to be slowing down. Larger changes to the H-1B visa system and legal immigration would require action by Congress.
THE STORY: The Department of Homeland Security is in the final stages of stopping a work permit program that would allow around 100,000 immigrants to work in the U.S under their spouses’ H-1B visas. The closure will disproportionately affect women, who make up the overwhelming majority of individuals eligible for the work permit.
THE CONTEXT: Families of workers with H-1B visas are given H-4 visas, which in the past have not allowed the visa holder to work in the U.S. But in 2015, the Obama administration started a program to give H-4 visa holders the right to work. Over 100,000 people applied for the program, most of them skilled workers with at least some higher education. Now it’s all but sure those work permits will be rescinded. Researchers who surveyed some H-1B visa holders found that restrictions on their spouses ability to work was related with lower life and work satisfaction. With countries like Canada offering streamlined work visa programs, the U.S. may risk losing highly skilled H-1B visa holders as well.
WHAT’S NEXT: In August, the Department of Homeland Security said the rule to strip H-4 visa holders of their right to work was in a final “clearance review”. It’s unclear exactly how many H-4 spouses will be affected by the rule change since Homeland Security said “certain H-4 spouses” would be banned from working.
THE STORY: The waiting period for becoming a U.S. citizen is getting longer. The most recent government data shows that there are 750,000 pending citizenship applications. The number of pending applications has nearly doubled since 2014. Since Trump became president, the number has gone up by around 20%.
THE CONTEXT: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services maintains that the increase in pending applications is due to an increase in overall applications and not slower processing times. USCIS said in August that its annual naturalization levels had not slowed down. At the same time, a few factors could be contributing to a longer naturalization process. Under Obama, the citizenship application nearly doubled in size and since then the Trump administration has made the interview process even longer.
WHAT’S NEXT: USCIS says it’s on pace to increase its output levels and production by 13% compared to last year, but immigration activists continue to put pressure on the U.S. to make the process easier and say it is effectively putting up a “second wall”.
Read further: The Wait To Become A U.S. Citizen Lengthens