At some of the nation’s biggest tech companies and consulting firms, the denial rate for initial H-1B applications noticeably dropped between the first two quarters of fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021.
That’s potentially bad news for critics of the H-1B system who hoped that the rising denial rates of the past few years would evolve into a long-term trend. The denial rate plunged for business-services and consulting firms such as Infosys and Cognizant, which are often accused of subcontracting H-1B workers to other companies at prices that undercut salaries.
At companies such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook, the declines in denial rates weren’t nearly as steep. “Denial rates for H-1B petitions appear to have returned to more traditional levels after court decisions and a legal settlement ended the Trump administration’s H-1B policies found to be unlawful,” the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), which broke down this data about denial rates, wrote in its accompanying report. “Still, those policies imposed significant costs on employers, visa holders and the economy, likely contributing to more work and talent moving to other countries.” Here’s the full chart:
The Trump administration expended quite a bit of energy on reforming the H-1B, including numerous restrictions on business-services and consulting firms’ use of the visa. In turn, many of those companies pushed back via the court system. For example, in early 2020, many of them launched a lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), arguing that they deserved a $350 million refund on H-1B visa application fees.
Amidst that constant back-and-forth, In addition, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also announced that it would adjust fees for visas, including the H-1B. That new fee structure (including a $4,000 price tag for renewals) seemed designed to make things much more expensive for those business-services and consulting firms applying for thousands of H-1B visas every year.
With the Biden administration, though, it’s unclear whether substantial H-1B visa reforms are in the making. Biden’s first regulatory agenda, published this summer, hinted at the administration’s intention to “modernize” H-1B requirements—but what that actually means is an open question. Will these lower denial rates sustain, or rise again?