L-1B denial rate remains high

14 Dec 15


L-1B denial rates remained high in fiscal year 2015, with one in four petitions being denied, according to statistics recently released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

L-1B nonimmigrant visas allow employers with overseas offices to transfer employees possessing “specialized knowledge” to their affiliated U.S. operations.

Of the 13,814 petitions the agency adjudicated during the fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015), 75 percent (10,368 petitions) were approved, and 25 percent (3,446 petitions) were denied, terminated or withdrawn.

According to quarterly L-1B numbers published by USCIS, denial rates have improved in the last two quarters of fiscal 2015, falling from approximately 28 percent and 30 percent in the first and second quarters, respectively, to 21 percent in both the third and fourth quarters.

L-1B petitions by quarter, fiscal year 2015:

Period Approvals Denials Total Denial Rate
Q1 (Oct. – Dec.) 2,635 1,020 3,655 28%
Q2 (Jan. – March) 2,071 892 2,963 30%
Q3 (April – June) 2,806 768 3,574 21%
Q4 (July – Sept.) 2,856 766 3,622 21%
FY 2015 10,368 3,446 13,814 25%

BAL Analysis: The numbers confirm the continued challenges faced by employers and their employees in applying for L-1B visas. L-1B petitions have been plagued by high rates of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials, causing uncertainty for businesses relying on this route to transfer foreign employees with specialized knowledge. In August, USCIS issued guidance on how petitions are to be adjudicated by officers in order to clarify criteria for the L-1B visa. The guidance memorandum took effect Aug. 31, and its impact on approval rates remains unclear, given its very recent implementation and the subjective nature of these adjudications.

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