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.

42 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!

          • Guna, You mentioned 15 years of taxes. The maximum length allowed by H1-B is 6 years. An initial time of 3 years with a possible extension of 3 years.

            Guna, you are in country with an expired H1-B visa as are over 1,000,000 others. Would you please provide your fill legal name, address and the company name/address that is employing you? You need to be immediately deported, as you do not honor contractual agreements.

          • Srinath

            Taxes are for facilities used, roads, busses, trains, schools etc etc. None of that is refundable, cos you have already used it. Medic and soc sec are payable at retirement. If the country has an agreement with the US to be payable. So you should have read the fine print. Paying taxes does not entitle you to anything past the time you have already lived here, and rest payable as services or monthly cash after retirement.

    • 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.

      • RobinHood

        Exactly. All these cheap, greedy companies (and our own corrupt bribe taking government officials who allow it and even have the balls to lobby for MORE H1-Bs) who do want to increase pay with COL think they outsmarted everyone by saving a few bucks. But they are going to pay dearly for selling out their fellow American citizen employees for cheap plastic crap. That shit catches up to you. Bad code is no different then crappy furniture, cars, appliances, etc. They did the same thing in the car industry and manufacturing and it’s caused our country to not just sicken its citizens and destroy its natural resources, it’s ruined the very fabric of our way of life. I see some H1-Bs who actually think they’re superior to American tech workers, and justify taking jobs because they believe the bs they are being fed. Many are also victims of greedy corporations who are just playing us against them & vice versa. Side note—I’ve noticed that acting like you’re superior usually means you’re not. If you’re so much better at tech, your own country would have tons of work and you wouldn’t have to come here. You would be busy expanding your own country and living the good life there instead of being here helping eliminate our middle class.

        • James C. Bennett

          Umm, the crappy MCAS software which downed the two aircraft to doom Boeing was NOT written by H1Bs – they were products of US citizens and perm residents with the authorization to access such tech. The Boeing H1Bs wrote the entertainment system code.

          Airbus (where I work), which uses plenty of Indian software talent, is doing fine.

          I always chuckle when I see the useless-water bum-scrubs complain simultaneously about “cheap labor” H1Bs AND their alleged loss of high pay jobs to them. Laugh these bottom-feeders out the trash chute!

  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.

    • Srinath

      If some Idiot politician now (after corona virus turned 3% unemployment to 30% and climbing) talking about expanding H1 program after “talking to business leaders” to “grow the economy” they deserve to be kicked repeatedly in the nvts. They are likely corrupt, likely pandering for votes because many new immigrants when they can vote, vote reliably democratic and this theft needs to stop.

    • Srinath

      Correct, H1B are great for the company’s bottom line, terrible for the workers. When most of the workers in your field are exploitable, all workers get exploited.

    • Jamie Madison

      A good number of Hospitals give out between $5k to $10k per semester for tuition reimbursement to locally produce nurses. Why can’t these IT companies do the same to produce more local talent? Becoming a programmer is way easier than becoming a nurse. We could easily produce tons of IT professionals if we wanted to.

  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.

    • You might have wished for that kind of Act while your case was then pending with USCIS. Congratulations! Probably you got your Permanent Residence Status or Citizenship by now.

  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.

      • Be hones as a Sr. Network Security consultant working for my self on c2c, not much H1B holders but companies who sponsoring H1B visa’s they’re low balling the IT Security market, I used to bill $135/hrs now overseas recruiters not even willing to pay $65/hrs its disgusting.

  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.

  8. Hard working immigrant

    It is all about work, and are you only afraid because you can’t compete with H1B skilled workers…they work their ass off (all of them) and I have seen many US Citizens/PR holders just fooling around/partying/high or f***ing most of the time. They are literally just wasting all the opportunities they have. An immigrant comes here on visa, puts 150% in his work (no criminal activities as well) and you still hate them all cause they get hired over you. It is a job..do it well..you will get it. Simple.

  9. Hard-Working-Immigrant

    It is all about work, and are you only afraid because you can’t compete with H1B skilled workers…they work their ass off (all of them) and I have seen many US Citizens/PR holders just fooling around/partying/high or f***ing most of the time. They are literally just wasting all the opportunities they have. An immigrant comes here on a visa, puts 150% in his work (no criminal activities as well) and you still hate them all cause they get hired over you.
    If it is about getting the job..do it well, be more skillful….and you will get it. Simple.

  10. Oswaldo

    Release the Donkey in You – A story

    A donkey was tied to a tree. A demon came and untied it. The donkey ran into the fields and was destroying the crop.

    The farmer’s wife saw this and shot the donkey dead.

    The donkey’s owner was upset so he shot the farmer’s wife.

    The farmer came back to see his wife dead, he went and shot the donkey’s owner.

    The wife of the owner of the donkey asked her sons to go and burn the house of the farmer.

    The boys went late evening and carried out their mother’s orders happily assuming that the farmer too would have been burnt with the house. Sadly for them it wasn’t that, so the farmer came back and shot the wife & the two sons of the owner of the donkey.

    Remorseful, he asked the demon why did all this have to happen?
    The demon said, “I did nothing, I only released the donkey, but, all of you reacted, overacted and released the inner devil.”

    The devil doesn’t do anything but wake you up by triggering the ego in you that turns into evil intent and goes harming others.

    So the next time before replying, responding, reporting, rebuking or avenging a revenge, stop and think. Be careful. Many a times what the devil does is that it just “releases the donkey” in us.