It Is Not Your Imagination…H-1b and L-1 Denials Have Been Going Up!

A memo was released recently through the National Foundation for American Policy which provided a revealing analysis in which data reveals high denial rates for L-1 and H-1b petitions submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Analysis of new data obtained from USCIS reveals the agency has dramatically increased denials of L-1 and H-1B petitions over the past four years, harming the competitiveness of U.S. employers and encouraging companies to keep more jobs and resources outside the United States.

The high denial rates belie the notion adjudications have become more lenient. Employers report the time lost due to the increase in denials and Requests for Evidence are costing them millions of dollars in project delays and contract penalties, while aiding competitors that operate exclusively outside the United States – beyond the reach of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicators and U.S. consular officers. (The data in this report include only petitions at USCIS, not decisions made at consular posts.) Given the resources involved, employers are selective about who they sponsor. The high rate of denials (and Requests for Evidence) is from a pool of applicants selected by employers because they believe the foreign nationals meet the standard for approval, making the increase in denials difficult to defend. Denying employers the ability to transfer in key personnel or gain entry for a skilled professional or researcher harms innovation and job creation in the United States, encouraging employers to keep more resources outside the country to ensure predictability.

Among the findings contained in this NFAP analysis of official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data:
– Denial rates for L-1B petitions filed with USCIS, which are used to transfer employees with “specialized knowledge” into the United States, rose from 7 percent in FY 2007 to 22 percent in FY 2008, despite no change in the law or relevant regulation. The denial rates stayed high for L-1B petitions at 26 percent in FY 2009, 22 percent in FY 2010 and 27 percent in FY 2011.1 In addition, 63 percent of L-1B petitions in FY 2011 were at least temporarily denied or delayed due to a Request for Evidence.

– Denial rates for H-1B petitions increased from 11 percent in FY 2007 to 29 percent in FY 2009, and remained higher than in the past for H-1Bs at 21 percent in FY 2010 and 17 percent in FY 2011.

– Denial rates for L-1A petitions increased from 8 percent in FY 2007 to 14 percent in FY 2011. L-1A visas are used to transfer executives and managers into the United States.

– The denial rates also increased for O-1A petitions, which are used for “individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.”2 Denials for O-1A petitions rose from 4 percent in FY 2008, to 10 percent just one year later in FY 2009, increased again to 11 percent in FY 2010, and stood at 8 percent in FY 2011.

– Along with increased denials have come skyrocketing rates of “Requests for Evidence” or RFEs, which are used by USCIS adjudicators to obtain more information in lieu of making an immediate decision on a petition. Employers note that simply the act of an RFE can result in months of delays, affecting costs and potentially delaying projects and contract performance.

– The Request for Evidence rate for L-1B petitions (to transfer employees with specialized knowledge) rose from 17 percent in FY 2007 to 49 percent in FY 2008, and, as noted, reached an astonishing level of 63 percent rate in FY 2011. As recently as FY 2004, USCIS adjudicators requested additional evidence for L-1B petitions in only 2 percent of the cases. There appears to be no reasonable explanation for the rate of Request for Evidence for L-1B petitions to rise from 2 percent to 63 percent in just 7 years.

– The Request for Evidence rate for L-1A petitions (to transfer managers and executives) increased from 4 percent in FY 2004, to 24 percent in FY 2007, up to 51 percent in FY 2011.

– For H-1B petitions, the Request for Evidence rate rose from 4 percent in FY 2004, to 18 percent by FY 2007, to a high of 35 percent in FY 2009. In FY 2011, the rate for H-1Bs was 26 percent.

– For O-1A petitions, the Request for Evidence rate increased from 1 percent in FY 2004, to 13 percent in FY 2007, and then more than doubled to 28 percent in FY 2009, 30 percent in FY 2010, and 27 percent in FY 2011.

Even more disturbing than these points is when the breakdown of these numbers is taken with a view towards country specific data, it becomes more alarming for Indian nationals. L-1B petitions indicate USCIS is more likely to deny a petition from an Indian-born professional than nationals of other countries. The denial rate for Indian-born applicants for new L-1B petitions rose from 2.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2008 to 22.5 percent in FY 2009, a substantial increase that resulted in many employers being unable to transfer their employees into the United States to work on research projects or serve customers.

In comparison, the denial rate for new L-1B petitions for Canadians rose from 2.0 percent in FY 2008 to only 2.9 percent in FY 2009. Illustrating the abrupt change, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied more L-1B petitions for new petitions for Indians in FY 2009, 1,640 denials than in the previous 9 fiscal years combined, 1,341 denials, between FY 2000 and FY 2008!
While the number of denials and RFEs have risen over the past few years a major reason behind this rise is concerned with small businesses and the focus on USCIS to investigate petitions for potential fraud going on with such cases. Regardless of USCIS intent, our office has been very successful getting our clients’ cases approved for H-1b and L-1 visas and you can be assured that your case will be equally successful.