US visa changes and what they mean for expats

US immigration policy has drawn international attention in the past couple of years. While much of the focus has been on Trump’s border security policies, little attention has been given to the small but significant changes made to legal immigration. There are now several new obstacles for expats wanting to obtain both temporary and long-term visas to the US.

Long-term visas

Expats thinking about relocating to the US should keep in mind the recent changes that have been made to visa policies. A significant change has been the increase in interviews required for visa applicants. In the past, someone applying for a working visa would only be called in for an interview if there was a specific concern raised by their application. Under the Trump administration, all applicants in this category are required to have an in-person interview. Due to the added workload, family-based visa applications are now taking much longer to process than before. In fact, the number of pending visa applications has increased by more than 35 percent in the past year.

The wider aim of these measures is to take the focus away from family-based immigration. Trump wants to replace the current system with a point system that would favor highly educated immigrants. Though this proposal has not had enough support in Congress to become law, Trump has been able to shape current policies to these ends.

Temporary visas

Those wanting to obtain a temporary visitor or working visa to the US should also be aware of several changes. For one, Trump has ended the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allowed the interview requirement to be waived for certain temporary visa applicants. This has again had the effect of increasing the backup in applications.

Another shift has been the drop in approval rates for temporary employment visas for the US. These visas are reserved for skilled, graduate level employees and are especially popular because of the possibility of transitioning to a green card if you have one. Trump’s “Buy America, Hire America” policy has limited these visas to only the highest-skilled or highest-paid foreigners. As a result, applicants and employers are facing stricter inspection from visa officials, and denial rates have spiked.

Though Trump has not been able to pass major immigration reform since he took office, there have still been changes to existing programs and practices within legal immigration. Increased wait times and restrictions have made it much harder for today’s foreign workers and relatives to come to the US. Looking to the 2020 presidential elections, new leadership could mean a return to more progressive visa policies for expats and their families.

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