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Visa denial rates for highly skilled workers are on the rise. Small Texas businesses are taking a hit.

The Texas economy relies heavily on temporary work visas, like H-1Bs, to hire highly trained, highly skilled employees from abroad. But H-1Bs have been subject to tougher scrutiny, with denial rates on the uptick.

Temporary visas for highly skilled noncitizen workers are key for Texas businesses, but they're also in short supply.

The federal government issues 85,000 of those visas — known as H-1Bs — annually to businesses nationwide via a random lottery, which includes 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. The process has come under intense scrutiny during the Trump administration; businesses are expected to face higher fees and more paperwork when seeking H-1B visas for workers.

Denial rates increased from 13% in 2017 to 33% through the second quarter of this fiscal year, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.

Some Texas small-business owners say losing out on the chance to hire skilled foreign workers hurts their businesses — and that's bad for the state's economy. But President Donald Trump has said his immigration policies are designed to put American workers first and only give visas to foreign workers with extraordinary skills.

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