H1B Denial Rate Soars Under Trump Administration

A recent report released by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts public policy research on trade, immigration, education, and other issues, provides further confirmation that the Trump Administration has radically changed how the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is adjudicating H1B petitions. In the report, the NFAP analyzed USCIS data regarding denial rates for H1B petitions filed since fiscal year 2009 (FY 2009). Unsurprisingly, the report found that the denial rate has soared in the past several years, and continues to increase under the Trump Administration.

Denials for H1B Petitions for New Employment

The report first examined H1B petitions filed for new employment for fiscal years 2009 through 2018, plus the first quarter of FY 2019. The USCIS fiscal year runs from October 1st through September 30th. President Trump assumed office during the second quarter of FY 2017.

From FY 2009 through FY 2016, the denial rate for H1B petitions seeking new employment never rose above 15 percent, and was at eight percent or less for six of those fiscal years. By FY 2018, however, the denial rate had soared to 24 percent. For the first quarter of FY 2019, the denial rate reached an unprecedented level of 32 percent.

Denials for H1B Petitions Filed for Continuing Employment

The NFAP report also looked at the denial rate for H1B petitions filed for those seeking extensions and continuations of previously approved H1B petitions. These petitions did not fare much better under the Trump Administration. Between FY 2009 and FY 2017, the denial rate for such petitions never exceeded six percent. In 2018, that rate doubled to twelve percent. In first quarter of 2019, continuing H1B petitions were denied at a rate of 18 percent.


As noted in the report, the substantial spike in the denial rate has not been prompted by any new immigration law or regulation. Rather, the Trump Administration appears to be implementing its stated goal of dramatically decreasing the number of foreign nationals allowed in to the U.S. by reinterpreting existing regulations, and imposing draconian standards on the H1B petitions that are filed.

Still, this is not to say that H1B employers have no means of fighting back. Filing a carefully prepared, thorough H1B petition is more important than ever before. And, if a petition is denied, H1B employers also have the option of suing the USCIS, which allows an impartial federal judge to determine whether the H1B denial violates existing law and regulations.


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