This is the story of hope and shattered dreams in the current immigration world. It surrounds an academic and scholar, with an M.B.A. from Stanford University, in California, law degrees in China as well as a degree from the prestigious Oxford University in England. Before coming to the United States, she worked in Hong Kong as an attorney at a top international firm. Six months ago, she won the H-1B visa processing lottery for skilled foreign workers, yet somehow things went terribly wrong. The applicant is from northeastern China and was planning on remaining in Silicon Valley to assist with the start of a company based on the production of modern technology that would improve the use of data. Normally, when this lottery is achieved, the applicant can remain in the country for at least three additional years.
In July, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Request for Further Evidence (RFE), which can often be a request for documents previously submitted but somehow due to an oversight by USCIS, requested again. That RFE was responded to and then another RFE arrived in September, which was also complied with. Finally, 6 months after being awarded the lottery, USCIS advised the applicant that her visa had been denied and was given 60 days to leave the country. Both RFEs asked our applicant to prove her job was a “specialty occupation”, meaning, work that only someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher can accomplish. Her work involved artificial intelligence and data, with support letter from an authority in the industry and a veteran start-up investor, not to mention a Nobel Prize winner. Yet, this applicant was not able to convince USCIS that her job required advanced skills.
Historically, when an individual was selected in the lottery, the H-1B petition would be accepted by USCIS. This occurred for approximately 87 percent of all cases in 2016. Welcome 2017 and the current immigration changes that took place in April when the new administration decided to begin to increase scrutiny of highly skilled applicants utilizing the H-1B program.
To date, there is no information regarding how many petitions have been approved this year, however RFEs have increased by 44% compared to 2016, according to published immigration statistics. This evidence supports the assumption that more cases are being denied this year as compared to last.
Another change to the H-1B process took place on April 3rd, when the Trump administration announced that it would suspend the premium processing service, which in the past allowed applicants a response to their petition within 15 days, for an addition fee of $1000.00. Eliminating this benefit wreaked havoc on students and others who needed a quick decision because their visa was due to expire or wanted to plan trips home that they couldn’t make since their status was undecided.
The applicant in our story was unable to return to China in July when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, because she risked being denied entry upon return since her H-1B had not been approved. Our applicant is one of the fortunate ones, however. Although she used her savings to pay for Stanford, giving up her lucrative law career, because of her impressive education, she will be able to flourish in China and return to her family.
Thousands of Haitians who have lived in the United States for years under Temporary Protected Status were informed last week that they would have to return, as the program would not be renewed. Those unfortunate individuals will not be as lucky, since Haiti has not fully recovered from the devastating earthquake and subsequent hurricanes that ravaged the small island in the recent past.
The current administration, who claims they wish to “Make America Great Again” may have forgotten that the founder of Google and Tesla were immigrants. America is losing highly skilled workers because of it’s anti-immigrant stance.
If the applicant described in our story here isn’t qualified to stay in the United States, we have to ask ourselves, who is?