H-1B Petition Denials Skyrocketing in First Quarter 2019

The rate of denials for new H-1B petitions rose in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, according to new data from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

Some 32 percent of petitions for initial employment were denied, based on NFAP’s analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data. That’s a remarkable increase from 2018, when 24 percent were denied, and 2015, when only 6 percent were denied.

That accelerated rate also applies to petitions for continuing employment, some 18 percent of which were denied in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019. “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,” the NFAP wrote in a statement accompanying the data (PDF). “Whether the actions of USCIS are serving the best interests of the United States is a question that will remain open for debate.” 

Moreover, these denials come despite no sweeping legal overhaul of the H-1B system. “The rise in the denial rate for continuing employment, where existing H-1B workers whose petitions have been approved before, show that adjudicators are applying a new standard to people whose petitions have already been approved before,” William Stock, a founding member of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP, told NFAP.

The data from NFAP aligns with general trends reported directly by USCIS. For example, the agency’s recent data showed that approvals of completed H-1B applications hit with an RFE (Request for Evidence) declined noticeably year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019. Premium processing might have re-opened after a lengthy shutdown, in other words, but some companies are facing a heightened degree of additional scrutiny.

However, there’s a big change underway for the H-1B system, and it could radically affect the types of candidates who successfully land a visa. In the current system, applicants with advanced degrees enter a “master’s cap” pool of 20,000 visas; those who are rejected then enter the 65,000-visa “general pool,” which features applicants without advanced degrees. The revamped system will allow all applicants, including those with advanced degrees, to enter the “general pool,” and any who don’t land a visa during that first round can then end up in the “master’s cap” pool.

In theory, this gives applicants with advanced degrees two shots at landing a visa. But with USCIS clearly subjecting applications to far greater scrutiny, it’s an open question whether a revamped system will allow companies to secure all the visas they claim they need.

In the meantime,the cap for H-1B visas has been reached for fiscal year 2020. Even as USCIS tightens the system, that’s clearly not dissuading companies from attempting to secure as many visas as possible. If that wasn’t enough, these firms are providing H-1B candidates with all kinds of perks, including company-paid housing, funded relocation, travel expenses, and sponsorship for green cards

“Leading companies think about immigration strategically. For example—companies that offer foreign nationals benefits that allow them to remain in the U.S. longer are finding more success in retaining foreign talent,” Richard Burke, CEO of Envoy Global, wrote in a recent statement. “With heightened political scrutiny comes heightened anxiety among foreign nationals looking to work in the U.S. Companies that are able to provide their employees peace of mind by offering them a clear path to a permanent green card are getting ahead of the competition in retaining the best talent.”

But that idea is enraging to critics of the H-1B system, who say that companies abuse the visas in order to secure cheaper labor from overseas. H-1B holders at consultancy firms (which aggressively petition for the visas) are often paid less than H-1B holders at tech firms such as Google and Apple. While some studies argue that H-1B use translates into a positive effect for company productivity, it’s certain the visas will remain controversial for some time to come, revamps or no. 

47 Responses to “H-1B Petition Denials Skyrocketing in First Quarter 2019”

      • Nissan Christophe

        I’m in the IT industry. Over 70% of my coworkers are Indian H-1B. This was supposed to be for highly skilled workers. However, management hires these people to document Requirements and other medium skilled tasks. Why? They’re cheaper. I’ve seen broken English in Requirements lead to defects. You get what you pay for. And people wonder how Trump got elected.

  1. “H-1B holders at consultancy firms (which aggressively petition for the visas) are often paid less than H-1B holders at tech firms such as Google and Apple. ”

    That argument is nothing but a diversion. The wage rules for H-1B and green card sponsorship are broken down into wage Levels I, II, III and IV, with Level III being the median. For software developers, the most common type of foreign worker on H-1B, the green card data show the following percentages of foreign workers at Levels I or II making below-median wages: Amazon 91%; Facebook 91%; and Google 96%. These firms, putatively in the vanguard of advanced technology and certainly in the vanguard in Capitol Hill lobbying regarding H-1B, are paying almost all of their foreign workers – ostensibly, the “best and brightest” – wages below the median for the given region. This belies the industry lobbyists’ claims that H-1B workers are hired because they’re experts that can’t be found among the U.S. workforce, and it certainly illustrates that not only the outsourcers abuse the H-1B visa.

    Who cares that the consultancy firms are paying less for their (lesser quality) H-1B workers. BOTH consultancy firms AND non-consultancy firms (e.g., Google and Apple) are getting their workers at a 20% discount with the H-1B visa.

  2. Stop family chain migration. Graduates from other countries are coming into US with green cards, and here the talk is about H1Bs only. One H1B gets sponsored with a H1B and after he gets his citizenship, he is eligible to sponsor green card for his brothers and sisters who after 10-20 years come to US as green card holders, along with their children who do not have any education in the US, but compete with local talent. Bad practices. Many graduates from India are reservation candidates who are many times low class 3rd grade students who do not qualify under merit. They are also flooding the US market along with L1 visas. Stop everything, and allow only US educated Merit candidates only. Or have the option for green cards only for Phd Holders and above, and MS from top schools

    • Mr. Noname

      Repeal the law and do away with the H1B visa category altogether. The nation existed for over two hundred years without them. In fact I think we should ban the work visa completely, at a time when the labor force participation rate is the same as it was in 1934, the height of the Great Depression.

      I propose an end to all work visas and a one hundred year moratorium on immigration.

      The next problem is how to ban outsourcing of US jobs to foreign countries, or at a bare minimum make it unprofitable and uncompetitive to hire two-cent-a-month software devs in Third World countries while American citizens go begging for work.

      • What next? Every country bans imports from US and we dont make any thing here other exporting pork, wheat and soya beans. Even those will be banned. It is an inter connected world. Who built all these trillion dollar CAP companies? Your mom did nt program. Most people in this country want easy way out. Get real. With out these immigrants, there would nt be any economic boom in tri-state or bay area. Go figure.

      • Mr. Noname…great post. Not ONE more immigrant is needed for an IT job, when there are so many unemployed Americans (myself included). And I agree with you on stopping all immigration. There’s way too many people here now. People in 3rd world countries need to stop producing so many children (future refugees).

    • STOP H1 visa. we need Dunkin donuts/ 7-11 to run and the chain immigration is needed. All the streets vendors are here in H1 Visa and killing local talent. They work 60 hours and drinks free coffee and produce 15 hours of work.

      • As long as know, most of US citizens are not native American. Native Americans are red Indians who were killed. Most of today’s americans are migrated from Europe approximately 300 years ago. Therefore, American is a land of immigrants.

        Now lets talk about statistics. 77% Indian are atleast Graduate whereas 36% Indians are post graduate in America.So, definitely they will get better job than others.

  3. It is easy to blame the Indian consultancy companies —but that is only half true -any company that has an indian IT manager –and this includes most of the fortune 400 companies would try to employ only indians.
    I have seen this first hand -the indian managers ignore the US graduates of any race -white (blacks do not even stand a chance with these guys).We are now seeing an influx of their chinese cousins.
    The indians, and their chinese cousins are playing the h1b and L1 game to the detriment of the US citizens -this has to stop.
    whenever there are indian or chinese team leads,managers you would hardly see any white or black people working in those teams.

  4. H1BBodyShop

    US Universities produced over 3 million computer engineers in last 10 years these are looking for job. US does not need H1B and foreign help. Also its high time to put scanner and arrest those small body shops… that are actually recruiting for the bigger body shops like infosys, tcs, HCL. These small sardines make initial call, talk about rate, bring down the hourly rate and throw all sort of abuse on the behalf of the big body shop. these are typical mushroom companies created by the big body shop as a shield. this small body shop will take 2 – 3 dollar and run payroll on behalf of big shop. ask them postal address and they are reluctant. these small body shop always ask first question “are you on H1B ?” there is certain abuse goign on with these small body shop and high time to put them behind bar.

  5. My company just “partnered” with Accenture to help find “efficiencies” in our company. We all know this is code for offshoring or outsourcing. So I’m glad there is more scrutiny of H1B applicants. I’m going to need that fighting chance for new employment within the next year.

  6. Paul G.

    Please say more. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how the nation existed for over 200 hundred years without foreign workers.

    I’ll keep this short.

    As you might already know, since you seem well-versed in immigration law, the H1B is a category for a work visa which is a part of immigration law. Let’s take a look at our history and see how as a nation, we ourselves are immigrants. Sure, there are those who abuse the system, but there are also those who are trying to find better opportunities and are sincere in finding careers.

    Going back, I’m still interested in hearing your thoughts on how our nation has existed for over 200 hundred years without “them”. And by “them”, I mean you, me and us. And by us, immigrants.

    • I’m not the person to whom you’re addressing your comment, but I need to call you out:

      Nice strawman argument. You’re trying to make the issues about the workers themselves rather than the deeply flawed H-1B visa legislation. It is the legislation that is allowing EMPLOYERS (i.e., not workers) to LEGALLY abuse the system. THAT is the problem. I’m all for allowing the best and brightest into the US. Unfortunately, the H-1B visa isn’t being used to that end.

      • I agree H1b visa program has flaws and so does American primary, secondary and high school system. Passing racist comments and calling out foreign national students to go back to their country is not a solution. I did my masters from one of the ivy league schools and we just had about 10 to 15 Americans in a class of 50. This was the case at least for mechanical engineering. Out of these 15 folks only 6 or 7 were under 25 years of age and rest were already working. Rest of them were either sponsored by the company or they needed higher education to be promoted. No one’s taking anyones job. I got through 5 rounds of interviews to land up with a job. I earned this job with hard work and diligence and all this was done abiding by the law. Most of the people like me at my work place or at least to pretend to like me. Long story short: there aren’t enough American STEM graduated. The unemployed American graduates that we have aren’t working hard enough or they gave up too early to land up with their dream job. Persistence is must to achieve what you want. Not everything comes easy as food stamps. Sorry for the burn but that is the truth. Another cool fact is my taxes are part of you Food Stamps. Btw food stamps are classical example of flawed system.

        • This is in reply to Singh’s comment made on April 24, 2019.

          Do you not find it ironic, if not humorous, that you decry racist attitudes while expressing your own racism?

        • Arrogant puffery, Singh. You didn’t create things – if you are anything like the other H1b workers I have seen, you can merely imitate. I worked in an office building staffed with a diverse group of IT workers. Over a period of several years the company staffing changed to 90% H1b visa workers from India. The people who created the software are NOT disappeared – they were LAID OFF. They still exist. They still need jobs – but the costs of bringing in H1b workers under contract caused the layoffs. Ageism and racist Indian hiring has made it hard for the displaced American workers to get new jobs. Next another awful part – the company has been losing customers – apparently having poorly educated cheap H1b workers does not result in customer retention. The company will likely not last another 5 years. But the main point here is that the H1b workers could not produce the kind of sustainable results that made our customers stay with us.

        • @Singh, It’s ironic that you called people who benefits from your taxes are food stamp people. You were the one who received the most from this H1B program. You received more than taxes you paid. You should be grateful to American people who gave you opportunity to come and work in this country. Maybe even your kids to become US citizen someday. Insulting American people who allowed you all these opportunities is what you Indians are good at.

          • I think, Americans have forgotten history. People living on American soil are Europeans who migrated for better opportunity and killed millions of native Americans. It’s matter of time. Europeans moved 200 years ago and Asians are moving now. Asians are not killing anyone. I also interviewed many Americans and hardly found good candidate. Companies are giving opportunity to hard working and talented people. I am not getting paid less than American. People need someone to blame for their failure. Make yourself passionate as your ancestors were.

  7. “Long story short: there aren’t enough American STEM graduated.”

    Do you have a reference to support your claim? And I don’t mean one from or supported by industry.

    You perpetuate a myth. Data from the Census Bureau confirmed that a stunning 3 in 4 Americans with a STEM degree do not hold a job in a STEM field—that’s a pool of more than 11 million Americans with STEM qualifications who lack STEM employment[1]. This is a constantly growing number: Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, a top national expert on STEM labor markets, estimates that “U.S. colleges produce twice the number of STEM graduates annually as find jobs in those fields.”[2] There is, in fact, a glut of STEM trained workers.

    [1] “Census Bureau Reports Majority of STEM College Graduates Do Not Work in STEM Occupations”, Release Number: CB14-130, July 10, 2014, US Census Bureau

    [2] “STEM Grads Are at a Loss”, September 15, 2014, U.S. News

  8. We are not denying enough. This article is a continuation of the outright lies spewed by those looking for cheap labor to abuse.

    My 28 year old son recently interviewed with Fiserv for an IT position. Same industry, skills they needed and the 4 Indian programmers who interviewed him told him they do not hire Americans. My IT husband has lost many jobs to the replacement people. We have hundreds of friends, including young people who are American citizens who have lost jobs or not even allowed the opportunity to work due to this scam. Those willing to help bring attention to this problem to help their fellow Americans receive death threats. Listen to this audio recently held with the USCIS. Yes it is long.

    https://www.ustechworkers.com/2267-2/

    Audio of USCIS Hire American, Buy American Listening Session | U.S. Tech Workers
    This is the audio from the almost two hour long United States Citizenship & Immigration Services listening…

    USTECHWORKERS.COM

  9. Chuck Tudor

    “The rise in the denial rate for continuing employment, where existing H-1B workers whose petitions have been approved before, show that adjudicators are applying a new standard to people whose petitions have already been approved before,”

    Good.

  10. cardcounter

    I looked at some recently released H-1B data. I looked at one job category “Software Developer”. There are over 3,000 H-1Bs currently working as a sofware developer making less than 50k/yr in salary. About 6,000 more making less than 55k.

    Blah, blah, blah all you want about advanced degrees. When you have 10,000 people in a single job category working for less than what a new graduate straight out of college should expect, H-1Bs are not about advanced degrees or not being able to find qualified citizens to do the job.

  11. Charles Windsor

    Good. The H1B visa program is abused by the Infosys’ and Tata’s of the world.
    Perhaps the government can introduce training programs for US nationals to get into these high paying positions

  12. L/E visas. short cut to get green card. why not US implement H1B rules to them. visa’s has to be halted or minimize to save US born generations.
    hire only US Born citizens to government jobs to save the system.

  13. Shakti

    Broken English. I agree. Out of a such a huge pool you ought to have mediocre. But you cant deny the fact that Indians have contributed massively in boosting the US economy and generating jobs. You can’t take away the cream of India and build your economy and enjoy the fruits to yourself. We don’t steal jobs, every H1B has come through an approval from US authorities. Now that H1B extensions are rejected Indians will still find a way through Masters. Indians are going to flood the US colleges. You cant stop seeing that Indian face right from the Indian CEO of your company to the most likely Indian origin President in future. You have to become ‘UNAMERICAN’ in every sense to deny Indian going to the top.

  14. They come here and bring their h4 wife and then have anchor babies. Their goal is to stay here instead of going back to Telagana/Andarha or wherever because those countries are hell holes. It’s the same as the Mexican border jumpers. They aren’t here to work. But to avoid their own countries. No one really cares if they have the skills or not. Management and above are all non technical these days and hire them because they are cheap instead of for their skills. The reckoning is coming.

  15. I just want to remind everyone a small fact. We all are living in a selfish world and none of us have time to think about others. And this is how a selfish world works like. So, stop blaming each other.

  16. I have never seen any salary differences at Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple….. We interview many candidates and never reject anyone based on Race/Ethnicity. I can say, my team is most diveresed. Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Korean, Japanese, European, Australian

    It is not easy to get job in Google, Amazon….During interview, these companies expect to solve very complex problems within 30 mins.

    Also, I seen one comment saying, “Getting job 20 years ago was easy”, but the truth is: If I don’t update myself with latest technology, company will fire me next day.

    Most of the CEOs in top companies are Indians. If all Indian are forced to move back to home country, there will be 100s of Amazon, Apple and Google.

  17. sun197895

    Companies always try to reduce the cost, ..if you stop people coming into US then the companies will go to the countries where labor is cheap and reasonably good (at required level if not more). This is why in the last 6-8 months we have seen an increase in the salaries in in India as companies realized the way forward is to outsource more work to countries like India. So while US is able to add some jobs by not allowing foreign nationals, it is infact loosing lot of money in the form of taxes (as these foreign individuals if allowed would come here, earn and pay taxes). Any ways, slowly it would be realized that this is faulty and knee jerk policy.