US Turns Down A Third Of All New H-1B Petitions Processed In The First Quarter Of The 2019 Cycle


New Delhi: The United States turned down nearly a third of all new H-1B petitions processed in the first quarter of the 2019 cycle, continuing the squeeze on the work visa programme that started in 2017 with the Trump administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order.

An analysis of the database of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank, showed 32 per cent of “initial” (technical term for new applications as opposed to extensions or continuing) H-1B petitions were denied in the first quarter of the 2019 cycle (October-December).

The denial rate was 24 per cent in fiscal year 2018, quadrupling from 6 per cent in 2015. It never exceeded 8 per cent from 2010 to 2015, the Obama years. The first-quarter denial rate for FY 2018, to match the first quarter rate for 2019, was not available.

According to the analysis, all of the 27 companies listed by the USCIS as top H-1B employers, which include leading American IT firms such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple, saw an increase in their H-1B denial rates for initial employment over the 2015-2019 period. “All but 4 of the 27 companies also saw an increase in denials for initial employment between FY 2018 and the first quarter of FY 2019.”

The full trend will be known for FY2019 after September.

“If the goal of the Trump administration is to make it much more difficult for well-educated foreign nationals to work in America in technical fields, then USCIS is accomplishing that goal,” said Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy.

Indians are the single-largest beneficiaries of H-1B visas, accounting for more than 70 per cent of 85,000 visas granted every year; 65,000 in the open category and 20,000 for foreign students enrolled in US institutions of higher education. Petitions for the 2020 cycle were accepted earlier this month and the cap was reached within five days, as before. Applications for advanced degree group are still being accepted.

USCIS spokesperson Jessica Collins said in a statement, “As part of our efforts to fulfil President Trump’s ‘Buy American and Hire American’ executive order, USCIS has made a series of reforms designed to protect US workers, increase our confidence in the eligibility of those who receive benefits, cut down on frivolous petitions, and improve the integrity and efficiency of the immigration petition process.

“It is incumbent upon the petitioner, not the government, to demonstrate that he or she meets the eligibility under the law for a desired immigration benefit. USCIS continues to adjudicate all petitions, applications, and requests fairly, efficiently, and effectively on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet all standards required under applicable laws and regulations.”


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