Virginia, US

Nov 16 2018

Report Confirms Steady Increase in USCIS Denial Rates for Employment-Related Filings

United States

At a glance

  • Denial rates for all immigration benefit requests are up by 37% since Fiscal Year 2016. 
  • USCIS statistics confirm that the agency has taken an increasingly restrictive approach to employment-based immigration since the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order and related policies were issued.

The situation

The Trump Administration’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, extreme vetting memorandum and related policies continue to contribute to a steady increase in denials for employment-related filings, according to a report issued by the Cato Institute. 

Analyzing newly released data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) covering the first three quarters of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, the report confirms that denial rates for all immigration benefits, including employment-based petitions, employment-authorization applications, advance parole applications, adjustment of status applications, etc., have increased by 37% since FY 2016.  In FY 2018 alone, the agency has steadily increased the number of cases it is denying, with 164,712 total denials in Q1, 196,849 total denials in Q2, and 202,361 total denials in Q3.

Trends by Form type

Though the Cato Institute report addresses a wide variety of case types, including family-based cases, the data related to employment-related filings are noteworthy. 

  • I-129 nonimmigrant worker petitions:  USCIS data show a steady increase in denial rates since FY 2016, with a 16.8% denial rate in FY 2016, a 17.1% denial rate in FY 2017 and a 22.6% denial rate in the first three quarters of FY 2018.
  • I-765 employment authorization document (EAD) applications: Though there was a slight drop in the denial rate between FY 2016 (6.0%) and FY 2017 (5.4%), there has been a substantial increase in FY 2018, with a current denial rate of 9.6%.
  • I-131 advance parole applications:  FY 2018 has seen an 18.1% denial rate thus far, up from 7.2% in FY 2016 and 8.0% in FY 2017.  This considerable increase may be the result of an internal USCIS policy, reported last year, to deny advance parole applications for abandonment when the applicant travels internationally during the pendency of the application, regardless of whether the applicant has underlying nonimmigrant status or a valid advance parole document.
  • I-485 employment-based adjustment applications: The data also point to a gradual increase in the denial rate for employment-based green card applications, with a denial rate of 5.9%in FY 2016, 6.0% in FY 2017 and 7.9% in FY 2018.​


What this means for employers

The Cato Institute report confirms that, consistent with Buy American, Hire American and extreme vetting priorities, USCIS has taken an increasingly restrictive approach to employment-based immigration, and employers face greater challenges in sponsoring high-skilled foreign nationals to work in the United States. These adjudication trends are likely to have more significant consequences for foreign nationals, as USCIS implements new policies related to unlawful presence

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