Is USCIS Targeting Outsourcing Companies from India? Read the Numbers

Posted on March 11, 2019
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Folder with H1-B denials

The Protectionist policy that the Trump administration has adopted from the beginning is now evident in the rising number of rejections faced by several H1-B petitioners from IT outsourcing companies. The skew in balance is in comparison to petitions generated by tech giants within the US like Google, Apple and Facebook who had 99% approval rates with their H1-B petitions.

The question being raised is if there is a link between approval rates for primary H1-B applying companies vs. outsourcers from the most dominant player – India? The spotlight is on companies like Infosys, Cognizant and Tata Consultancy Services. They have seen a steady decline in approval rates in the past year and are gearing up for the oncoming H1-B season starting in a month. For the ones that did get through the visa lottery, the majority received a request for evidence (RFE), indefinitely delaying the process. Could USCIS be strategically picking on Outsourcing companies? Here are the numbers for us to evaluate:

Table showing Petitions denied

  • The overall H1-B primary petition approval rate went down to 75% in the final quarter of 2018, from 83% in 2017 and 92% in the same period in 2016.
  • Approximately 60% of the companies seeking H1-B visas for their employees received a RFE, requests for supplemental information by the end of 2018, compared to 46% in 2017 and 28% in the final quarter of 2016.
  • Even if these outsourcing companies were just seeking to extend a previously approved work visa, they were slapped with a request for supplemental documentation.
  • The applications that were ultimately denied even after being subjected to RFEs rose by 38% in 2018.
  • RFEs revolved around documentation to prove that a sponsored job was a “specialty occupation,” and if they had valid employer-employee relationships with the prospective workers. Firms were also asked to show the foreign workers’ had specific work assignments and schedules while on the work visa.
  • Yr. 2018 data shows that while Cognizant, based out of New Jersey had a 68% approval rate, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys, India based outsourcing companies had 82% and 74% H1-B approval rates respectively. This is in comparison to the big tech companies in the US who got 99% of all their requests granted.
  • 6 outsourcing firms together got 2,145 H-1B work permits, a number less than the 2,399 visas just received by Amazon in 2018. 
  • With denials doubling in the past six months and the rate of new H1-B visas as well as extending foreign work visa applications from tech firms reducing over time, it will be interesting to see how the on-coming H1-B season pans out in April this year. Is the slanting trend in favor of US companies going to continue or will it make the tech industry here in the US less competitive? Stay tuned to this space to find out more as the season fast approaches.

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