At 21% in Sept quarter, H-1B visa denial rates in US remain high

Venkatesh Ganesh Mumbai December 10 | Updated on December 10, 2020

TCS sees least rejections at 15%; Infosys, Cognizant see over 50% rejections

Denial of American H-1B visa petitions remains high, indicating continued uncertainty in the US government’s stance towards skilled visas.

According to a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), while TCS saw the least rejections at 15 per cent, Infosys and Cognizant saw rejection rates of 59 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively.

The average denial rate for new H-1B petitions was at 21 per cent in the third quarter of FY20. This was in tandem with the 21 per cent denial rate in FY19 and 24 per cent in FY18, the NFAP report said. In comparison, the denial rate was 6 per cent in FY15, it added. The numbers are based on United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data.

Request for Evidence

There has been a rise in the number of cases, among visa applicants, that were ordered Request for Evidence (RFE) by the USCIS. The RFE is a notice sent out by the USCIS to the applicant, requesting missing initial/additional evidence. Once the applicant submits the evidence, a decision is taken on visa approval.

In the first half of fiscal 2020, almost half of the visa petitions came under RFE, according to USCIS data. Around 41.7 per cent of the total H-1B visas petitions were processed after ordering an RFE and, out of these, 67.8 per cent were granted visas.

Some industry watchers expect a “visa friendly” stance from the new Joe Biden government. Biden, in his campaign, had spoken of overturning President Donald Trump’s order to temporarily pause H-1B visas through 2020. Already, a California federal judge has struck down the Trump administration's policies around the tightening of eligibility norms and raising of minimum salaries for foreign employees on high-skilled work visas. The judge further blocked the implementation of the H-1B visa ban. “Due to a push-back from industry and stakeholders by way of litigation, there has been an improvement in approval rates. We anticipate that this will continue,” said Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner of LawQuest, an immigration law firm.

H-1B is widely used for technology jobs that are critical to all sectors. Hence, it is critical that the programme continues until the US introduces a new foreign worker programme that may be merit- or points-based, according to Chothani.

Published on December 10, 2020

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