H-1B visas — used to bring in highly skilled temporary foreign workers such as IT workers — have been under fire politically despite demand for high tech skills.

Recently, a Silicon Valley company faces a federal probe over its use of visa holders, according to a news report. And a separate report by nonpartisan think tank last month found the denial rates for H-1B visas has increased.

Cisco probe

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Labor Department investigators found Silicon Valley tech giant Cisco Systems Inc. discriminated in favor of visa holders. Bloomberg cited sources familiar with the probe. A Cisco spokesperson denied some of the allegations. Cisco employed nearly 1,600 visa holders last year, including workers on H-1B visas, Bloomberg reported.

Denials increase

The denial rate for H-1Bs jumped to 22.4% in the fourth quarter of the 2017 federal fiscal year, which started in July 2017, from 15.9% in the third quarter, according to the report released July 25 by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan think tank based in Arlington, Va.

Denials rose shortly after the executive branch of the US government issue a “Buy American and Hire American” executive order on April 18, 2017, according to the report.

In addition, the report found the number of “requests for evidence,” where US immigration officials in the fourth quarter almost equaled the total number requested in the first three quarters of the federal fiscal year. Requests for evidence more than doubled to 63,184 in the fourth quarter just from the third quarter alone at 28,711.

The report is based on data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Interviews with attorneys and companies indicate high denial rates and requests for evidence have continued into the present 2018 fiscal year, according to the report

It also found H-1B petitions denied for Indian-born professional rose 23.6% in the fourth quarter of 2018 from 16.6% in the third quarter. For H-1B petitions for professionals from countries other than India, there was a 19.6% denial rate in the fourth quarter compared to a rate of 14% in the third quarter.

Talent shortage

Meanwhile, the TechServe Alliance said this month the supply of skilled talent in the US is constraining the growth of IT jobs. And restrictive immigration policies are already pushing work overseas.