As H-1B visa receipts trickle in, here is a recap of the 2019 filing season.
An uptick in H-1B visa applications for FY 2020
For the first time in two years, USCIS received just over 200,000 H-1B visa petitions. This H-1B filing season (2019), there were 10,913 more H-1B visa petitions submitted than in 2018. The rise in H-1B visa applications marks a reverse in the trend over the past several years. USCIS received 190,098 petitions in 2018 and 199,000 in 2017.
H-1B visas are most frequently used by U.S. tech companies to fill shortages of qualified high-skill workers. The rise in applications may be tied to the growing IT industry that has stimulated the U.S. economy. Services-based products have been a major driver for GDP growth. As the IT sector expands, so does the need for a diverse, highly-qualified workforce.
Denials on the rise
While the majority of H-1B visas are still getting approved, stringent H-1B guidelines are causing the approval rate to drop. Over the past two years, H-1B visa approvals have decreased by 18%, according to USCIS data. In the first quarter of FY 2017, 92.1% of H-1B visa petitions were approved as compared to 75.4% during the first quarter of FY 2019.
The sharp decline in approvals contributes to the growing labor needs of U.S. businesses that make the largest contributions to the U.S. economy.
Spike in RFEs
In the first quarter of 2019, USCIS issued 60,650 RFEs to the 101,027 U.S. employers that applied. That is 60% of petitioners received an RFE. Since 2017, USCIS has increased the number of RFEs issued by 55.8%.
Over issuance of RFEs causes delays and uncertainty for U.S. employers. The price of receiving an RFE is more than the thousands of dollars it may add to the cost of applying. The time it takes for employers and attorneys to gather and submit additional evidence often adds months to the H-1B process and can cause a business to forego profitable opportunities.
Restricting access to global talent by denying legitimate applications and overissuing RFEs stifles innovation, competitiveness and economic growth. As the IT industry continues to sprawl into uncharted territory, the demand for skilled workers will also grow.