Are H-1B Approval Rates Rising Again, Despite Crackdowns?

The federal government approved a rising percentage of H-1B applications in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 (which covered October-December 2019). If that trend continues, it may end up blunting the rise in H-1B denials that has so far marked the Trump administration’s approach to the visa.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) initially denied 18,607 H-1B non-immigrant visas in the first quarter of fiscal 2020. Compare that to the same quarter the previous fiscal year, when USCIS denied 25,080 applications. Whereas the approval rates for the year-ago quarter stood at 75.4 percent, the Q1 fiscal 2020 approval rate was 83.4 percent—a significant rise. (If you want a full breakdown of the numbers, check out this handy PDF spreadsheet pumped out by USCIS.)

Another interesting data-point: Approvals following an additional Request for Evidence (RFE) stood at 67.2 percent in Q1 fiscal 2020, versus 61.3 percent in the year-ago quarter. In other words, USCIS approved a higher percentage of companies that supplied additional information.

Let’s look at all this data as a chart that extends from 2015 to the present day; on the X-axis, “2020” obviously represents only one quarter, but the rest of the dates are full-year.

For the past few years, the narrative around H-1B has been a straightforward one: Denial rates were skyrocketing, suggesting that the Trump administration was successfully cracking down hard on companies petitioning for H-1B visas. Consulting and “business services” firms, which often petition for lots of H-1B workers that they subsequently subcontract to other firms, were particularly hard-hit by this spike in denials.

But as the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) noted in a late 2019 report, the percentage of RFEs leveled against H-1B applicants had dipped from 60 percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019 to 40 percent in subsequent quarters—still higher than the 20 percent “historical rate” for RFEs, but nonetheless a significant pullback.

Now we have an additional piece of evidence, courtesy of the USCIS data, that rates of approval are leveling off and/or climbing slightly after a period of steep declines. What does that mean? Are companies becoming slightly more judicious about H-1B applications, or is the federal government easing up a bit on its clampdown policies? (It’s also worth asking if the lawsuits fired off against USCIS have anything to do with this trend.)

As recently as late 2019, all evidence suggested that the federal government is, indeed, still continuing to press hard against what it sees as years of habitual H-1B abuse by certain companies. In an October 2019 statement to Mother Jones, a USCIS spokesman framed the agency’s reforms as “designed to protect U.S. workers, cut down on frivolous petitions, strengthen the transparency of employment-based visa programs, and improve the integrity of the immigration petition process.”

Of course, one quarter does not a trend make, and it remains to be seen whether the approval rate continues to tick up for H-1B visas. The upcoming election could also radically change the nature of H-1B and the approvals process after 2020.

29 Responses to “Are H-1B Approval Rates Rising Again, Despite Crackdowns?”

          • Sure I am ready to go back. Can you pay back all the Taxes I paid so far for about 15 years? Can you pay back all the visa fees my sponsoring companies paid for the USCIS all these years? Can you pay back all the expenses they did for bringing me into US?

            It is easy to say “Go Back” but just think for a moment that you are on the receiving end and how you would feel? Be a responsible Citizen and start loving everyone. God already gave you what you needed to survive on the earth and would keep giving them. Don’t be an Hatred!

          • Why the fuck should we go back? Are you paying my bills or Taxes? You shut your shitty ass and stop saying Go back. We are paying 30% of our hard earned money to the US government as Tax and not a single person have the right to say Go shitty back!

    • This is question many are asking, whether the development was in-house or off-shored. In any case it was a really bad product, hastily put together two-three months ago, apparently no testing done, long story short, the poster child of what not to do when releasing a product.

      But don’t be surprised if the code was put together outside the US, after all, Shadow Inc doesn’t show who is who inside the company. Look at the Boeing 737 Max fiasco, crappy software developed by “highly sophisticated” (and cheap) off shore coders, while at the same time Boeing got rid off most senior engineers.

  1. Well, checking out the Shadow Inc site, creators of the software used in the Iowa caucus, the primary criteria for employment appears to require the workers to be ‘liberals’… quite funny, I would look at skill set myself, but then I have somewhat different standards.

  2. The bill to scrap the per country limit has to be blocked (mostly Indian “consulting” companies are lobbying). The per country limit is designed for diversity. I don’t think a certain country has more skills than the other. This must be an equalizer in terms of opportunity regardless of the backlogs of per country.

  3. The H.R 1044 – Fairness fo High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 is a BIG mistake. They should have keep the 7% per country limit. Look at these numbers staring in 2020 how BIG is the change for India ONLY will benefit this law! But shortage of job remains the same until 2026 just to remove the backlogs for India in 2018. This is not Fair to Other Countries.

    Read this report:
    https://www.cato.org/blog/fairness-high-skilled-immigrants-act-wait-times-green-card-grants

    • Right – we need to get back on our senators on this, now that the impeachment noise has died down there’s a chance they’ll try passing it again. CALL your senators! This is so unfair to everyone except the people in the two countries outside of the Americas who already have get the most green cards.

  4. The abuse of the H1-B program for greed is nothing short of treason. It undermines the aspirations of our wonderful American children and rewards the children of those who deserve nothing from us. I have a special hatred for those who would hire foreigners to take the jobs of our citizens…. and I hope there is a special place in Hell for them too.

    • I totally agree with you! I’ve been In the IT industry since the late 80’s. I’ve noticed that in the last 20 years using off shore workers (India) has gotten more prevalent. If you’re a contract IT worker, you’re primarily competing with them. They actually have set up shop right here in the US! They work for really low rates, and send the money back to India. So it hurts both the country, and American people. The only people who make money are the companies that use them.

  5. With a downturn in the world economy, the roaches will be turning up on our shores in greater numbers. All the talk of low unemployment numbers will be used to hide the H1-B applicants.

  6. Corporations lost the loyalty of their employees when they forced employees to sign over their rights when they had to train their foreign replacements. Corporations have no right to complain about employees leaving and creating their own companies when the big players can’t even pay their fair share in taxes. H1-B employers can’t even buy loyalty, let alone competent foreign workers with the garbage pay and benefits they now offer.

    People in technology talk so they can’t be shocked when young kids turn them down. Most places in Silicon Valley as well as large cities are just stepping stone companies for employees to gain experience then work for themselves or start competitive companies. Why not make yourself rich instead of some corner cutting parasite who lobbies D.C. cronies for kickbacks? Boeing is just a sign of the times and it will get worse before it gets better. Watch for IT employees going on strike and forget about teachers. IT employees are still underpaid more than any teacher is and it’s disgusting.

    • FOR 2020 – Trump is negotiating a great Deal with Hindia – taking all their IT workers. Modi is telling Hindians to start plans for migration and jobs in the US for the next 6 years… Trump himself has surrounded himself with Hindians over Amer-I-cannots… So does this spell it out for ya?

  7. Full of hatred criminals waiting like hungry dogs for some H1B news. Who gave you the rights to write nasty racist stuffs at wherever you go hatreds? We pay our 30% of our hard earned money as Tax to the US government and we have all rights to live here. Stop saying shitty “Go back” slogans and no one has the right to say that shitty thing.