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.
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.