The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released new data that confirms a higher rate of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Denials between fiscal year (FY) 2015 and the first quarter of FY 2019. This data reflects adjudication patterns across the Obama and Trump Administrations, but the greatest increases occurred after the executive order “Buy American, Hire American” under the Trump administration in April 2017.

H-1B Denial and RFE Rates Sharply Increased

According to the data, in FY 2015, 95.7% of H-1B petitions were approved while 22.3% received RFEs. 83.2% of H-1B petitions were approved even after receiving an RFE. In contrast, in FY 2018, 84.5% of H-1B petitions were approved, 38% received RFEs, and 62.3% of H-1B petitions were approved after receiving an RFE.

The preliminary data for the first quarter of FY 2019 shows a sharp increase in denial and RFE rates. While not demonstrative of an entire fiscal year, so far, only 75.4% of H-1B petitions have been approved while a staggering 60% received RFEs. Only 61.5% of H-1B petitions were approved after they received an RFE.

L-1 Denial and RFE Rates Steadily Increased

According to the data, in FY 2015, L-1 petitions were approved at a rate of 83.7% while 34.3% received RFEs, and 53.5% of those that received RFEs ended up receiving approvals. The denial rate and RFE rates have steadily increased over the years. In FY 2018, 77.8% of L-1 petitions received approvals, 45.6% received RFEs, and 52.9% received approvals after an RFE. Preliminary data for the first quarter of FY 2019 appears to show a continuing trend of increased denial and RFE rates, but the approval rates after receiving an RFE have remained relatively steady over the years.

TN Denial and RFE Rates Steadily Increased

Similar to the data for L-1 petitions, TNs also had a steady increase of denial and RFE rates. In FY 2015, 95.1% received approval while 17.3% received RFEs and 74.8% of petitions that received an RFE went on to receive an approval. In FY 2018, 88.2% received approvals, 28.2% received RFEs, and the approval rate after receiving an RFE dropped to 59.9%.

O-1 Denial and RFE Rates Modestly Increased

According to the data, the denial and RFE rates for O-1 petitions modestly increased since FY 2015. In FY 2015, the approval rate was 92.0% while 24.9% received RFEs and 69.0% of petitions that received an RFE ultimately received an approval. In FY 2018, the approval rate dropped slightly to 90.7% and 27.8% received RFEs. The approval rate following an RFE also slightly dropped to 67.2%.

Concluding Remarks

The new data from USCIS illustrates an overall trend in increased denial and RFE rates across the board for H-1B, L-1, TN, and O petitions. While this trend has been occurring through both the Obama and Trump administrations, a large uptick in denials and RFEs can be seen following the Trump Administration’s executive order “Buy American, Hire American.”

In several instances, the approval rates following an RFE have sharply declined. This demonstrates the need for more time and resources to aptly respond to RFEs. The increased denial rates may also demonstrate a need for alternative immigration options for foreign nationals.

If you have any questions regarding this new data from USCIS, please do not hesitate to contact our office.