Connecticut, US

Jun 11 2019

Employers See Continued High Rates of Nonimmigrant Denials and RFEs, USCIS Data Confirm

United States

At a glance

  • In the first half of FY 2019, the rate of petition denials and requests for evidence rose for H-1B and L-1 petitions filed at USCIS Service Centers.
  • RFE and denial rates appear to be on track to reach or exceed last year’s highs.
  • Overall approval rates declined, especially after an evidence request.

A closer look

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data for the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2019 show declining approvals and higher rates of requests for evidence (RFE) in several key employer-sponsored nonimmigrant categories, as compared to the same period in FY 2018, consistent with the Trump Administration’s continued high scrutiny of foreign worker petitions under the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order.  

H-1B RFEs and outcomes

The overall H-1B approval rate fell to 79.5% in the first half of FY 2019, down from 81% in the same period in FY 2018. The RFE rate was 47.7% during the first half of the year, up about 1% from the same period last year. The approval rate after an RFE was 60.2% in the first half of the year, down just over 2% from the same period in FY 2018. 



L-1 Service Center RFEs and outcomes

USCIS approved L-1 petitions at a rate of 73.1% in the first half of FY 2019, down from 78.4% in the same period in FY 2018. The L-1 RFE rate was 52.6% during the first half of the year, up by 8% from the same period last year. The approval rate after an RFE fell to 51.9% in the first half of FY 2019, from 52.7% in the first half of FY 2018. The data released by USCIS do not include adjudication statistics for L-1 applications at U.S. consulates or ports of entry.



TN and O-1/O-2 trends at USCIS

The overall approval rate for TN petitions filed at a USCIS Service Center increased slightly to 88.4% in the first half of FY 2019, up from 87.8% in the same period in FY 2018. The TN RFE rate was 26.2% during the first half of the year, down by 4% from the same period last year. The approval rate after an RFE decreased to 57.3% in the first half of FY 2019, from 62.2% in the same period in FY 2018. The data released by USCIS do not include adjudication statistics for TN applications at U.S. ports of entry or consulates.



During the first half of FY 2019, the approval rate for O-1 and O-2 petitions fell to 90.7%, from 91.9% in the same period in FY 2018. The RFE rate was 27.8%, up just over 4% from the same period last year. The approval rate after an RFE rose slightly to 67.1% in the first half of 2019, from 66.5% in the same period in FY 2018.



What the latest data mean for employers

The latest USCIS data confirm that employers continue to face increasing hurdles when petitioning for nonimmigrant employees in the current environment. Fragomen closely follows adjudication trends at USCIS and will issue further client alerts as new data become available.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.