Report Shows Huge Increase in Denials and Delays for H-1B and L-1 Petitions

New research results released by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) reveal that USCIS has had increasingly high denial rates of L-1 and H-1B petitions over the last four years. Analysis of data gathered from USCIS show that 63 percent of all L-1B petitions (e.g. intra-company executives/managers or specialized knowledge workers) received a Request for Evidence and 27 percent were issued a denial which means that between 63 to 90 Percent of L-1B Petitions were denied or delayed in 2011. Additionally, the data reveals that the increase in denials is largely related to petitions filed on behalf of Indian-born professionals and researchers.

“The dramatic increase in denial rates and Requests for Evidence for employment petitions without any change in the law or regulations raises questions about the training, supervision and procedures of the career bureaucracy that adjudicates petitions and the U.S. government’s commitment to maintaining a stable business climate for companies competing in the global economy,” states the report and concludes that “such actions are harming the competitiveness of U.S. employers and encouraging companies to keep more jobs and resources outside the United States.” Additionally, the report found that the increase in Request for Evidence and denials is costing employers undue time and money, including millions of dollars in project delays and contract penalties.

The NFAP analysis includes the following findings:

– Denial rates for L-1B petitions filed with USCIS, which are used to transfer employees with “specialized knowledge” into the United States, rose from 7 percent in FY 2007 to 22 percent in FY 2008, despite no change in the law or relevant regulation. The denial rates stayed high for L-1B petitions at 26 percent in FY 2009, 22 percent in FY 2010 and 27 percent in FY 2011. In addition, 63 percent of L-1B petitions in FY 2011 were at least temporarily denied or delayed due to a Request for Evidence.

– Denial rates for H-1B petitions increased from 11 percent in FY 2007 to 29 percent in FY 2009, and remained higher than in the past for H-1Bs at 21 percent in FY 2010 and 17 percent in FY 2011.

– Denial rates for L-1A petitions increased from 8 percent in FY 2007 to 14 percent in FY 2011. L-1A visas are used to transfer executives and managers into the United States.

– The denial rates also increased for O-1A petitions, which are used for “individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.” Denials for O-1A petitions rose from 4 percent in FY 2008, to 10 percent just one year later in FY 2009, increased again to 11 percent in FY 2010, and stood at 8 percent in FY 2011.

– Along with increased denials have come skyrocketing rates of “Requests for Evidence” or RFEs, which are used by USCIS adjudicators to obtain more information in lieu of making an immediate decision on a petition. Employers note that simply the act of an RFE can result in months of delays, affecting costs and potentially delaying projects and contract performance.

– The Request for Evidence rate for L-1B petitions (to transfer employees with specialized knowledge) rose from 17 percent in FY 2007 to 49 percent in FY 2008, and, as noted, reached an astonishing level of 63 percent rate in FY 2011. As recently as FY 2004, USCIS adjudicators requested additional evidence for L-1B petitions in only 2 percent of the cases. There appears to be no reasonable explanation for the rate of Request for Evidence for L-1B petitions to rise from 2 percent to 63 percent in just 7 years.

– The Request for Evidence rate for L-1A petitions (to transfer managers and executives) increased from 4 percent in FY 2004, to 24 percent in FY 2007, up to 51 percent in FY 2011.

– For H-1B petitions, the Request for Evidence rate rose from 4 percent in FY 2004, to 18 percent by FY 2007, to a high of 35 percent in FY 2009. In FY 2011, the rate for H-1Bs was 26 percent.

– For O-1A petitions, the Request for Evidence rate increased from 1 percent in FY 2004, to 13 percent in FY 2007, and then more than doubled to 28 percent in FY 2009, 30 percent in FY 2010, and 27 percent in FY 2011.

– Country specific data on new (initial) L-1B petitions indicate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is far more likely to deny a petition from an Indian-born professional than nationals of other countries. The denial rate for Indian-born applicants for new L-1B petitions rose from 2.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2008 to 22.5 percent in FY 2009, a substantial increase that resulted in many employers being unable to transfer their employees into the United States to work on research projects or serve customers. In comparison, the denial rate for new L-1B petitions for Canadians rose from 2.0 percent in FY 2008 to only 2.9 percent in FY 2009. Illustrating the abrupt change, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied more L-1B petitions for new petitions for Indians in FY 2009 (1,640) than in the previous 9 fiscal years combined (1,341 denials between FY 2000 and FY 2008).

To see the report, “Data Reveal High Denial Rates for L-1 and H-1 Petitions at USCIS,” in full, visit the NFAP website at

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