H-1B denial rates dropped dramatically in the first two quarters of the 2021 fiscal year, according to an analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

For new employment H-1B petitions, the NFAP analysis shows a denial rate of 7.1% in the first two quarters of FY 2021 (October 2020 through March 2021), compared to a denial rate of 28.6% in the first two quarters of the previous fiscal year.

New Employment H-1B Denial Rate
Fiscal Year Approvals Denials Denial Rate
2021 (Q1 and Q2) 39,501 3,040 7.1%
2020 (Q1 and Q2) 38,150 15,341 28.6%

Overall, denial rates have dropped significantly since peaking under former President Donald Trump in FY 2018 and 2019, according to the NFAP.

Fiscal Year New Employment H-1B Denial Rate
2021 (Q1 and Q2) 7%
2020 13%
2019 21%
2018 24%
2017 13%
2016 10%
2015 6%

The lower denial rate is at least in part due to legal challenges that forced USCIS to issue new guidance on the adjudication of H-1B visas in June 2020.

A federal court also set aside an “H-1B strengthening” rule before it took effect last year; the rule would have tightened the H-1B definitions of “specialty occupation” and “employer-employee relationship” and required more evidence for third-party placement of H-1B workers at client sites.

The NFAP said that while H-1B denial rates “appear to have returned to more traditional levels” the increase in the denial rate during the Trump administration “imposed significant costs on employers, visa holders and the economy, likely contributing to more work and talent moving to other countries.”

The full NFAP analysis is available here.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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