H-1B Denial Rates Have Quadrupled in 2019

Washington, D.C. – November 10, 2019: The denial rate for H-1B skilled worker visas have quadrupled in 2019 compared to denial rates in 2015. H-1B visas are the main temporary work visa for foreign skilled workers.

A report from the National Foundation for American Policy finds that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) found that, between Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 and the first three quarters of FY 2019, denial rates for H-1B petitions for “initial” employment for new employees have quadrupled from 6% to 24%. Denial rates for H-1B petitions for “continuing” employment (mostly for existing employees) also quadrupled from 3% to 12% over the same period.

The sharp increase in denial rates is also combined with a three-fold spike in the number of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) issued by USCIS on H-1B skilled worker visa petition (among other visa programs).

In Q1 of FY 2019, RFEs were issued for 60% of completed cases, compared to the historical average of 20%. RFEs delay the adjudication of cases and cause employers to have to spend additional funds to respond to RFEs – sometimes ranging from $700 for an expert opinion to several thousand dollars in legal fees.

USCIS practice of issuing RFEs for 60% of all H-1B visa petitions is a broadside challenge to the whole H-1B program. It undermines any predictable estimate of whether an H-1B visa will be issued, eroding employer confidence in the program – while simultaneously making it much more expensive to succeed in obtaining approval or renewal of an H-1B visa petition.

Donoso & Associates, a leading immigration law firm based in Washington, D.C., will continue to report on developments regarding the immigration law and policy through our news section of donosolaw.com.


I.A. Donoso & Associates provide assistance with review and advice regarding eligibility for visas to the U.S. or Canada.

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