Rejection rate fell to 1.5% in the July-September period compared to 21% in the previous nine months, mainly due to adverse court orders and memos against the previous Donald Trump administration over visa denials of genuine applicants.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that issues visas, follows the October to September fiscal year. H1-B visa rejection rates were at 6% in the last fiscal year of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The National Foundation for American Policy found that rejection rates during the four-year term of Trump, who took power on a strong anti-immigration plank in 2016, were significantly higher than before—at 24% in FY18, 21% in FY19 and 13% in FY20.
The denial rates of visa extensions for existing employees were relatively lower at 7% in FY20 compared to 12% in the previous two years.
“The numbers show the high denial rates for H-1B petitions during the Trump administration were the result of policies that were unlawful, and once the courts stopped those policies, the H-1B denial rates went back to normal. The numbers tell the story,” NFAP’s Executive Director Stuart Anderson said.
Several IT services providers also experienced an artificial increase in approved petitions in the just concluded financial year because the USCIS had either delayed or gone slow in approving applications the previous year.
The India Angle
Only three Indian companies figured in the Top 10 recipients of new H-1B visas in the previous fiscal year.
Every year, the US issues 85,000 new H-1B visas, which are used primarily by tech companies to bring highly skilled workers to the country. About 70% of these are issued to Indian nationals, but primarily to those working with American technology companies.
The share of Indian services companies has dropped to about 6% of the total visas issued. In FY20, Amazon.com Inc. received the highest number of H-1B visas, followed by India’s Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (
), Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Google.
The visa denial rates for all these companies dropped to 1%, except Cognizant (4%) in the final quarter of the year. In the first three quarters, the rates of visa rejections for the top five were: Amazon (7%),
(58%), TCS (15%), Cognizant (48%) and Microsoft (3%).
On 17 June last year, USCIS issued a new policy memo and withdrew an earlier one of 2018 on H-1B petitions involving third-party worksites following a court ruling that went against it. It also rescinded the ‘Neufeld memo’ from January 2010 which had been used to deny H-1B visa petitions for employees engaged at customer sites.
These memos and their interpretations were blamed for the much higher denial rates of H-1B petitions, particularly for IT services companies.
“It is worth noting that for nearly four years, the Trump administration, without any change in the law, was able to increase the H-1B denial rate by significant margins by issuing memos and urging or directing USCIS adjudicators to interpret regulations in a highly restrictive manner. It is now known those policies were unlawful,” Anderson said in the report.
Vic Goel, managing partner of Goel & Anderson, said the trend in low denial rates has continued into the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 (October-December period of 2020).
“Following the decision and settlement in the ITServe Alliance case that caused the rescinding of the 2010 and 2018 memos, H-1B approval rates improved substantially,” he said.