Latest Data Show H-1B Visas Being Denied At High Rates

The famous slogan of the US President Donald Trump, “Buy American Hire American” was hailed as the beginning of a new era. An era in which the native-born workers won’t be exploited by the immigrants anymore. The President promised to reduce the flow of immigration to the US. A major reason for this is that he thinks the immigrants take up all the jobs of Americans and reduce the pay for the natives.

What are the H-1B Petitions for Initial (New) Employment?

They are the primary cases of the H-1B annual limit of 65,000 and the 20,000 exemption from the limit for foreign nationals who got advanced degrees from US universities.

The initial petitions account for the new employment. The continuing petitions account for continuing employment, change of employer, and amended petitions.

What are the denial rates?

The immigration service of the US, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has set new records in denying the H-1B primary petitions.

It is shocking to note that the rates have risen from around 6% visa refusals in 2015 to around 24% visa refusals in 2019 according to the National Foundation for American Policy analysis ( is a high jump. Trump Administration is responsible for this.

Table 1: Shows the Denial Rate for H-1B Petitions for Initial (New) Employment

FY 2019 24%
FY 2018 24%
FY 2017 13%
FY 2016 10%
FY 2015 6%

What are the denial rates for continuing petitions?

The denial rates for continuing petitions are also on the rise. This has ended the career of thousands of people, forcing them to leave the country.

The denial rates have risen from 3% in FY 2015 to 12% in FY 2019.

Table 2: Shows the Denial Rate for H-1B Petitions for Continuing Employment

FY 2019 12%
FY 2018 12%
FY 2017 5%
FY 2016 4%
FY 2015 3%

Which companies are affected by this?

The denial rates have increased for companies in all sectors. The sector which is the most affected is Information Technology (IT). The government has singled out this sector for restrictive immigration policies.

These companies had denial rates of 2% to 3% in FY 2015. This increased to over 30% in the first three quarters of FY 2019.

What is the reason for this denial?

The reasons are that the USCIS has raised the legal standards to decide whether enough evidence has been given to approve the petitions. They do not have the legal authority to do this. They did not issue any public notice either. No law was passed in Congress. They silently refused the petitions without telling the public as to why they are being denied visas.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit was filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Following this, the USCIS released documents in September 2019. It was shown that the agency made dramatic changes to the H-1B policy without accounting for these changes in the law.

Table 3: Quarter Wise FY 2019 Denial Rate for H-1B Petitions for Initial (New) Employment

1st quarter (FY 2019) 33,366 15,345 32%
2nd quarter (FY 2019) 15,407 8,125 35%
3rd quarter (FY 2019) 39,551 4,237 10%
OVERALL (FY 2019) 88,324 27,707 24%


What does the future hold for H-1B petitions?

It is anticipated that a higher denial rate of initial petitions for the fourth quarter of FY 2019 is to turn up. This shows that the Trump Administration is committed to denying the foreign-born scientists and engineers to work in America. In the coming months, the procedure for hiring foreign-born individuals is to become more restrictive.

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