US Immigration is denying more H1-B visas than ever before — without notice or authority

Student wait in line at the US consulate general in Mumbai with visa applications in handBCCL

  • H1-B denial rates for initial petitions have increased from 6% in 2015 to 32% within the first quarter of 2019.
  • Attorneys and employers believe it’s because the United States Citizenship and Immigation Services has increased the standard of proof the approval of H1-B visas.
  • Top companies, like Amazon, witnessed their denial rate skyrocket from 3% to over 30% for continuing H1-B petitions.
Denial rates for H-1B petitions is at an all time high and attorneys believe its because the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased the standard of proof for approval without the requisite legal authority.

H1-B denial rates for initial petitions have increased four times between 2015 to 2018, from 6% to 24%. The denial rates have spiked further to 32% in the first quarter of 2019 . An analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) states that, in contrast, denial rates have never exceeded 8% in the years between 2010 and 2015.


Even for people who already have H-1B visas, the denial rate for continuing petitions have trebled to 18% from a mere 3% in 2015. For eight years, between 2009 to 2017, the upper threshold for denial rates for such requests was 6%.


The e-commerce giant, Amazon, saw a 17% denial rate on 228 H1-B petitions for continuing H1-B. In fact, almost every top employer on USCIS’ list saw an increase in their denials — in some cases, jumping from 2% to over 30%.

Trump said that he wanted more ‘highly skilled’ immigrants to come to the US when he issued the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order in 2017. Indian applicants, in particular, have a lot at stake. Over 75% of all H-1B visa applications between 2016 and 2018 were from India.

The April 2017 executive order left 65,000 people out of the general quota reducing the number of visas available to less-skilled workers usually employed by the Indian IT companies.

But, in reality, lawyers have observed an increase in the denial rate of H1-B visas for skilled applicants as well. Dejected candidates have reportedly been shifting their aspirations to aim for a Canadian visa.

The sudden and sharp increase in H1-B denials raises serious legal and policy questions according to Willam Stock, a founding member of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, who reviewed the data for Forbes.

Stock explains, "One thing that is clear to me is that the data backs up what employers have been saying for the last two years: USCIS has raised the legal standard they use to decide whether enough evidence has been presented with petitions to approve them, without any legal authority to do so and without any notice to the public."

The consequence of such high denial rates can have an impact on international students, expanding businesses, and applicants awaiting their green card approval. NFAP noted that only 20% of full-time computer science and electrical engineering students in US universities are actually citizens of the US.

See also:
Skilled, foreign workers are giving up on their American dreams - and turning to Canada

Rejections for standard work-visas have shot up under the Trump administration, but some companies have avoided the trend

Indians accounted for 75% of all H1B visas in the US in the last two years
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