With its analysis of new data from the government, the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) makes crystal clear: Over the past four years, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has dramatically increased its denials of L-1 and H-1B petitions and much of the increase in denials involves Indian-born professionals and researchers. NFAP also reports a dramatic increase in denials of O-1 “extraordinary ability” petitions, and an across-the-board increase in requests for additional evidence (RFEs) for all of these categories. The data suggests that USCIS has changed the standards for these petitions, beginning in 2008–09, despite no change in the law or relevant regulations and, as a result, has demonstrated its capacity to keep skilled foreign nationals out of the United States. Here are some of the statistics from the report:
- Denial rates for L-1B “specialized knowledge” petitions rose from 7 percent in FY07 to 27 percent in FY11. In FY11, 63 percent of L-1B petitions were delayed due to RFEs; in FY04, only 2 percent received RFEs.
- Denial rates for L-1A executives and managers petitions increased from 8 percent in FY07 to 14 percent in FY11. RFEs increased from 4 percent in FY04 to 51 percent in FY11.
- Denial rates for H-1B petitions increased from 11 percent in FY07 to 17 percent in FY11. (In FY09, the denial rate was 29 percent.) RFEs rose from 4 percent in FY04 to 26 percent by FY11. (In FY09, the RFE rate was 35 percent.)
- Denial rates for O-1A extraordinary ability petitions rose from 4 percent in FY08 to 8 percent in FY11. For O-1As, RFEs increased from 1 percent in FY04 to 27 percent in FY11,
- Country-specific data on new (initial) L-1B petitions indicate USCIS is more likely to deny a petition from an Indian-born professional than from a national of another country. The denial rate for Indian-born applicants for new L-1B petitions rose from 2.8 percent FY08 to 13.4 percent in FY11. (In FY09, the rate was 22.5 percent.) The drop in FY11 Indian denials can be attributed to a 40 percent decline in the number of receipts for new L-1B petitions for Indian professionals between FY10 and FY11.
Employers already are selective about who they sponsor and thus petition for those who they believe meet the standard for approval. They complain, rightly so, that the time lost due to the increase in denials and RFEs are costing them millions of dollars in project delays and contract penalties, while aiding competitors that operate exclusively outside the United States. Denying these businesses the ability to transfer these key personnel harms innovation and job creation in the U.S. and encourages employers to keep more resources outside the country to ensure predictability.
As noted by NFAP, the dramatic increase in denial and RFE rates for employment petitions raises serious questions about the training, supervision, and procedures of adjudicators and of the government’s commitment to maintaining a stable business climate for companies competing in the global economy.