The waiting game has begun again for H-1B visas.
This month, U.S. employers have applied to temporarily hire hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals for high-skilled positions. But their petitions face another period of heightened scrutiny under the Trump administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, which has sought to crack down on abuse of the H-1B program.
On April 10, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it received more than 200,000 petitions for H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2020 filing period. That is the first increase in petitions the H-1B program has seen in three years. But of those petitions, only 85,000 will actually get reviewed due to the program’s statutory caps, and of those, a growing percentage is getting denied by the USCIS.
A search on USCIS’ new Employer Data Hub shows that the agency denied 1 out of 4 initial H-1B petitions it reviewed for FY 2018, whereas in FY 2016 it was 1 in 10. As of first quarter FY 2019, the denial rate is 1 in 3. Initial H-1B petitions are for foreign nationals seeking new employment, rather than for continuing employment or changing employers.
While no policy or statutory change has raised the bar for H-1B visas to be granted, USCIS under the Trump administration has been giving employers much more pushback on their H-1B cases. That’s been a stressful development for many white-collar companies, health care systems and universities that tend to rely on the program to fill positions, according to immigration attorneys.