Despite stricter scrutiny, three percentile increase in approval of H-1B visas this year

United States has approved a larger number of H-1B applications (both for initial visas and visa extensions for continued employment) this year, showing that the demand for these work visas continues without any reduction

United States has approved a larger number of H-1B applications (both for initial visas and visa extensions for continued employment) this year, showing that the demand for these work visas continues without any reduction. This is a relief to Indians, who are the dominant holders of H-1B visas, especially after processing regulations got more stringent post-2015.

While in 2015, 2.88 lakh applications were approved (95.7%) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) , for fiscal 2019, the figure touched 3.89 lakh (84.8%), up from last year's 3.35 lakh (84.5%).

Country-wise data has not been released for fiscal years 2019 and 2018, but in past years, a significant portion (more than 70%) of the aggregate H-1B visa applications for new jobs and visa extensions has been given to those born in India. Local hiring in the USA may have resulted only in a slight drop in this figure, say, immigration experts.

USCIS data for fiscal 2019 shows that the agency continued extreme scrutiny of H-1B applications. RFEs were sought in 40.2% of cases from sponsoring employers to justify the visa applications. This is up by 2 percentile points as compared to the previous fiscal ending September 30, 2018.

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Only 1.20 lakh applications were approved, as against the 1.84 lakh applications that were subject to the RFE procedure. The approval rate of H-1B applications, after obtaining additional information from the sponsoring employers, was 65.4% during fiscal 2019, a slight rise from the previous year's 62.4 %.

The post-RFE approval ratio was as high as 83% in fiscal 2015, but it has been steadily dropping. It was down to 74% in fiscal 2017, dropping still further to 62.4% in fiscal 2018, only to pick up slightly by 3 percentile points in fiscal 2019.

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