Trump's 'extreme' anti-terrorism vetting may be H-1B nightmare

Many people from 'dangerous and volatile regions' work in the U.S. on H-1B visas, and Trump's plan would penalize these workers because of birthplace

trump chart

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a sign during a campaign rally at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, on Aug. 10, 2016.

Credit: Eric Thayer/Reuters

Donald Trump’s call for "extreme vetting" of visa applications, as well as the temporary suspension of immigration from certain countries, would raise fees and add delays for anyone seeking a visa, including H-1B visas, immigration experts said.

In particular, a plan by Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, to stop issuing visas -- at least temporarily -- "from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world" may make it difficult for a significant number of people to get visas.

Data assembled by Computerworld through a Freedom of Information Act request shows foreign workers come from all corners of the world, including "dangerous and volatile regions." Trump outlined his immigration enforcement plan in a speech Monday.

In 2014, the U.S. approved more than 370,000 H-1B applications. Some were new entries, and others were for previously approved workers who were either renewing or updating their status.

Of that number, 2,234 of the H-1B visa holders were from Pakistan, a country that might appear on a Trump list. Another 1,102 approved visa holders were from Iran. There were 658 H-1B visa holders from Egypt, and 256 were from Syria. (Article continues below chart.)

Country of Birth for H-1B Visa Holders

CountryFrequency
INDIA 262,730
CHINA 29,936
CANADA 7,653
PHILIPPINES 6,055
KOREA, SOUTH 5,024
UNITED KINGDOM 3,822
MEXICO 3,216
TAIWAN 2,785
FRANCE 2,570
JAPAN 2,268
PAKISTAN 2,234
NEPAL 1,997
GERMANY 1,895
TURKEY 1,850
BRAZIL 1,831
ITALY 1,497
COLOMBIA 1,491
RUSSIA 1,461
VENEZUELA 1,432
SPAIN 1,329
IRAN 1,102
NIGERIA 1,015
ISRAEL 949
IRELAND 932
KOREA 813
UKRAINE 795
ARGENTINA 778
MALAYSIA 771
SINGAPORE 755
VIETNAM 695
EGYPT 658
ROMANIA 648
BANGLADESH 647
INDONESIA 637
SRI LANKA 608
PERU 583
POLAND 576
AUSTRALIA 564
GREECE 556
SOUTH AFRICA 547
HONG KONG 503
BULGARIA 477
THAILAND 476
LEBANON 462
JAMAICA 461
KENYA 437
NETHERLANDS 432
JORDAN 415
CHILE 395
SWEDEN 374
NEW ZEALAND 353
GHANA 341
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 333
ECUADOR 302
SYRIA 256
PORTUGAL 253
SWITZERLAND 249
BELGIUM 238
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 231
SAUDI ARABIA 205
ZIMBABWE 205
HUNGARY 203
Spain 189
AUSTRIA 179
UNKNOWN 179
DENMARK 174
HONDURAS 171
COSTA RICA 165
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 155
BOLIVIA 150
CZECH REPUBLIC 149
GUATEMALA 149
EL SALVADOR 147
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO 142
KUWAIT 141
MOROCCO 138
ETHIOPIA 133
CAMEROON 126
FINLAND 125
BAHAMAS 123
MOLDOVA 111
KAZAKHSTAN 108
SLOVAK REPUBLIC 103
CROATIA 102
NORWAY 102
ARMENIA 101
UZBEKISTAN 101
PANAMA 99
URUGUAY 94
ALBANIA 88
UGANDA 88
USSR 87
Serbia 86
LIBYA 84
MONGOLIA 83
TANZANIA 83
BURMA 76
NIGER 74
LITHUANIA 70
GEORGIA 66
GRENADA 58
SENEGAL 58
BARBADOS 57
MACEDONIA 56
LATVIA 54
AZERBAIJAN 52
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 51
CYPRUS 51
ST. LUCIA 51
IRAQ 50
SLOVENIA 50
BELIZE 48
ICELAND 47
ZAMBIA 47
GUYANA 45
NICARAGUA 45
PARAGUAY 45
BAHRAIN 43
TUNISIA 43
ALGERIA 42
MAURITIUS 42
DOMINICA 40
USA 39
ESTONIA 35
KYRGYZSTAN 34
HAITI 30
RWANDA 28
BURKINA FASO 26
MACAU 25
TURKMENISTAN 25
CAMBODIA 24
COTE D'IVOIRE 24
TAJIKISTAN 24
CONGO 22
ST. KITTS-NEVIS 22
SUDAN 22
MALAWI 21
OMAN 21
ST. VINCENT/GRENADINES 21
MALI 20
ANTIGUA-BARBUDA 19
BOTSWANA 18
IVORY COAST 18
BERMUDA 17
BENIN 16
AFGHANISTAN 15
Kosovo 15
QATAR 15
LUXEMBOURG 13
MADAGASCAR 13
Montenegro 13
YEMEN-SANAA 13
TOGO 12
SIERRA LEONE 11
YUGOSLAVIA 11
GABON 10
GAMBIA 10
NORTHERN IRELAND 10
MALTA 8
NAMIBIA 8
SURINAME 8
SWAZILAND 8
BHUTAN 7
FIJI 7
FRENCH POLYNESIA 7
MOZAMBIQUE 7
BURUNDI 6
CUBA 6
GUINEA 6
LIBERIA 6
BRUNEI 5
NETHERLANDS ANTILLES 5
ARUBA 4
ERITREA 4
KIRIBATI 4
LESOTHO 4
MALDIVES 4
MAURITANIA 4
ANGOLA 3
CAPE VERDE 3
CHAD 3
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO 3
SEYCHELLES 3
UNITED STATES 3
ANGUILLA 2
LAOS 2
SOMALIA 2
ARABIAN PENINSULA 1
CAYMAN ISLANDS 1
DJIBOUTI 1
GERMANY, WEST 1
GIBRALTAR 1
GUINEA-BISSAU 1
MARTINIQUE 1
MONACO 1
REUNION 1
Samoa 1
SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE 1
ST. VINCENT-GRENADINES 1
STATELESS 1
TONGA 1
TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS 1
VANUATU 1
Source: USCIS data for approved applications in fiscal year 2014

Trump's plan to admit only people "who share our values and respect our people" didn't indicate how it would be applied. It also didn't say whether all visa holders -- visitor, H-1B and green card -- would be subject to an ideological litmus test.

And what is the correct answer to such a question about American values?

"If you ask people born in this country what is an American ideology, I'm not quite sure that we would come out with one answer," said Jessica Lavariega-Monforti, a professor and chair of the political science department at Pace University in New York.

"The immigration system, as it currently stands, could not process additional vetting without creating backlogs and increasing wait times for applicants. At the same time, it is unclear how these policy changes would increase safety against a terrorist attack," said Lavariega-Monforti.

John Lawit, an immigration attorney in Irving, Texas, said the U.S. already has a vetting process that begins as soon as someone applies for a tourist visa. There are different levels of threat, such as being a citizen of Syria, that trigger a much higher level of vetting, he said.

"There is a huge financial commitment that must be made in terms of human resources in order to carry on such a vetting program, and a huge, huge increase in fees,” Lawit said.

Requiring oaths of some kind is "a lot of posturing with very little substance," he added, and are ineffective in improving security.

Lawit said he once assisted H-1B workers who were employed in non-classified jobs at the Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. The processing time for security checks could run months. That's an example of extreme vetting, while "extraordinary detailed security investigations are conducted," he said.

This story, "Trump's 'extreme' anti-terrorism vetting may be H-1B nightmare" was originally published by Computerworld.

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.