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USCIS policy changes raise H-1B petition denials considerably

A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought forward by the American Immigration Lawyers Association has revealed documents that detail how the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has raised the denial rates for H-1B petitions. Indiana companies that are seeking an H-1B visa for prospective foreign employees now face a much higher rate of rejection compared to a few years ago. In 2015, USCIS adjudicators denied 6% of these visa applications. During the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, the denial rate had jumped to 32%.

Requests for Evidence from adjudicators have also stalled roughly 60% H-1B petitions in the first quarter of fiscal 2019. A policy change uncovered within USCIS documents accounts for the high rate of requests for additional information from employers. A USCIS memorandum from February 2018 instructs adjudicators to ask employers for highly detailed work itineraries to validate that they will be engaging in an acceptable employer-employee relationship with the prospective worker. Since these visas typically apply to three-year periods of employment, employers must now present an exhaustive itinerary of work assignments covering all three years. The itinerary must explain dates of service and names and addresses of clients.

Representatives for AILA insist that these requirements fail to recognize a 1998 law that allows employers to place H-1B employees under a nonproductive status when work slows down. As long as the employee remains on the payroll, the employer satisfies legal requirements. Lawyers from the AILA noted that the USCIS documents lacked legal justifications for the new policies.

The greater scrutiny of H-1B petitions might interfere with a person’s ability to get documentation to work. A lawyer knowledgeable about immigration law could advocate for a person while interacting with immigration authorities.