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Immigration Law

Companies Say U.S. Consulate In India Denies L-1 Visas At Alarming Rate

Stuart Anderson, Forbes, Nov. 18, 2019

"U.S. consular officers are making it extremely difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible, for U.S. companies to transfer their employees from India into America on L-1 visas. The culprit is the Trump administration’s extreme “vetting” and “hire American” policies – even though U.S. unemployment rates are historically low and companies are trying to get visas for individuals they already employ.

“Our refusal rate for L visas at consular posts in India is 80% to 90%,” an executive of a major U.S. company told me in an interview. “We prepare a sheaf of backup documents, as we’ve always done, but now, after an employee explains why he needs to be transferred into the U.S. and what he’ll be doing, the consular officer will, in effect, say, ‘Not good enough’ and refuse the visa.” (The executive said visa refusals for L-1 visas from U.S. consulates in China are also a problem.)

... Company executives and attorneys believe the problems started after Donald Trump issued the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order in April 2017, and the State Department followed up by incorporating the order into its Foreign Affairs Manual.

The section on L visas added to the Foreign Affairs Manual stated: “On April 18, 2017, the President signed the Executive Order on Buy American Hire American (E.O. 13788), intended to ‘create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.’ The goal of E.O. 13788 is to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse, and it is with this spirit in mind that cases under INA 101(a)(15)(L) must be adjudicated.” (Emphasis added.)

Attorney Cyrus Mehta notes, “Buy American and Hire American is merely an executive order. It should not take precedence over the Immigration and Nationality Act.” For example, there is nothing in immigration law that says when a company seeks to transfer an individual it already employs to work in the United States on a project the standard of approval should involve “creating higher wages.” Economists would generally find the premise dubious, and the L-1 category does not even include wage requirements.

... In a modern global economy, moving employees around the world should be easy. U.S. companies are finding under the Trump administration it has become more costly and difficult than ever."