H1B Visa Lawyer: Is USCIS Underutilizing H-1B Numbers?

The numbers through the third quarter of 2012 for H-1B petitions is in. Through a FOIA request made by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the number of H-1B petitions that have been submitted, approved, denied, and withdrawn have been released. So far this year, 128,893 petitions have been submitted to USCIS. Of those petitions, 75,706 petitions have been approved, 20,717 have been denied, and 1,820 have been withdrawn.

This means there are still 30,650 petitions that are being decided by USCIS. Looking at the approval and denial rates, it appears that the approval rating is around 80% for H-1B petitions for 2012. While this may seem like a low number for employers to accept, it is a higher approval rate than in prior years. In addition, the denial number is the second lowest for denials since 2008, and taking the amount of petitions filed and still pending into consideration, the ratio for approvals to denials appear better than they were 5 years ago.

It is good to see that petition numbers and approvals have increased when comparing them to 2008-2011, but even despite these numbers, one would think the approval rate should be much higher. With all the political rhetoric going on around finding a way to keep those individuals educated in the U.S. in the STEM fields, the H-1B has always been the visa many of those individuals to utilize for working and staying in the U.S. Whether the denials come from a policy within USCIS or not, if we want to keep those educated in the U.S. from leaving, the H-1B visa needs to be utilized more in order to keep them here longer.