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Restrictive administrative decisions by the Trump administration are making it more difficult for H-1B visa holders to change jobs. This is an unintended consequence of administration policies. The irony is that since critics of H-1B visas argue less labor mobility can lead to foreign nationals being exploited by bad employers and thereby undermine U.S. workers, it means Trump immigration restrictions have hurt U.S. workers, not helped them.

The Trump administration is killing job portability for H-1B professionals,” said Vic Goel, managing partner of Goel & Anderson, in an interview. “The combination of increased denials, long waits and an extended suspension of premium processing has chilled H-1B visa holders transferring from one employer to another.”

Under U.S. law, an H-1B visa holder can move to a new employer even before gaining approval of a new petition. “Before, an H-1B professional would move laterally to another employer merely upon the filing of a new petition, as the law allows,” Rodney Malpert, partner at the Fragomen law firm, told me in an interview. “But now, even if we explain their application should be approved, they are frightened to make the move.”

The reason for the fear is a series of new restrictive immigration policies from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Trump administration.

First, USCIS has increased the denials of H-1B petitions. “The proportion of H-1B petitions denied for foreign-born professionals increased by 41% from the 3rd to the 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from a denial rate of 15.9% in the 3rd quarter to 22.4% in the 4th quarter,” according to an analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy. The impact of Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order and the accompanying policy changes led to the increase in denials, analysts believe.

Second, an H-1B professional and prospective new employer can now wait up to 10 months for USCIS to make a decision on an H-1B application. (See here, Form I-129, California Service Center.) In the past, employers could use “premium processing” and pay an additional fee to expedite an application. However, USCIS suspended premium processing for many H-1B applications starting in April 2018 – and then in September 2018 expanded that policy to include applications involving a change of employer. USCIS said in a statement: “We expect these suspensions will last until Feb. 19, 2019.” But nobody can be sure.

The impact of the USCIS decision was predictable. In an interview I conducted in September 2018, just after USCIS announced it would expand the suspension of premium processing to more applications, attorney William Stock said, “Those hurt most will be employees in H-1B status seeking to leave their current jobs for ones that pay a higher salary.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartande ... a44de661f7