H-1B visa approvals soar to highest in quarter to June since Trump became President

The data is for the quarter ended June 30, days after Trump suspended new non-immigrant visas, including the H-1B and L-1, through a Presidential Proclamation citing threats to American jobs. Visa approval rates in the first two quarters were at ...

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PUNE: The United States has approved 95.5% of the total H-1B visa applications filed in the third quarter of the ongoing fiscal year, the highest ever since President Donald Trump took power.

The data is for the quarter ended June 30, days after Trump suspended new non-immigrant visas, including the H-1B and L-1, through a Presidential Proclamation citing threats to American jobs.

The US immigration agency follows an October to September financial year.


Visa approval rates in the first two quarters were at 83.4% and 87.1%, respectively.

The approvals include applications filed in previous quarters as well as extension of H-1B visas for a second three-year term.

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Trump, who came to the Oval Office on an anti-immigration plank, has put in place policies like ‘Buy American Hire American’, which has contributed to a decline in the number of H-1B visas being approved.

Visa approval rates have dropped from an average 94% in fiscal year 2016 to about 85% in 2018 and 2019, data released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows.

Several factors are responsible for the increase in visa approvals, immigration lawyers said.

“We are seeing higher approval rates with less Request for Evidence from prior years,” said Nandini Nair, immigration partner at immigration law firm Greenspoon Marder.

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There are multiple factors for this, “including a decrease in filings, multiple litigation wins, the pandemic and USCIS losing money,” she added.

The number of applications cleared with RFE also dropped significantly to 20% during the quarter, from 40% and 35.8%, respectively, in the first two quarters.

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This was partly because of litigation led by US IT body, ITServe Alliance, against the USCIS around workers posted at third-party or client locations.

“As a result of this, USCIS issued guidance that petitioners do not need to provide itineraries and end-client contracts unless they wish to do so. The lack of such itineraries and end-client contracts was the cause for many (visa) denials before,” said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner of LawQuest, an immigration law firm.

In March, a US Court directed the immigration agency to desist from imposing these requirements while approving visa applications.

The number of applications approved after an RFE has been issued jumped to over 82% from about 68% in the previous quarters.

An RFE is a procedural request that the USCIS makes on applicants of H1-B visas. These can range from proving specialty occupation to establishing an employer-employee relationship. If the applicants manage to address its concerns, then an H1-B visa is granted. Otherwise, it is denied.

The total number of L-1 or intracompany transfer visas issued during the quarter was also higher than previous quarters, at 77.4%. In 2019, the average L-1 visa approval rate had dropped to 71.9% from 77.8% in the previous year.

Last week, the US Department of State announced certain carveouts in the non-immigrant visa ban, exempting from the ban people who were either part of the Covid-19 response or those applying to the same position with the same employer and visa classification.

Similar guidelines are applicable for L1 visa applicants.
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