L-1B Visa Petition Denial Rates Soar for Highly Skilled Professionals

The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a non-profit, non-partisan public policy research organization focusing on trade, immigration, and related issues, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In response to the request, USCIS released the data for denial rates for L-1B petitions to transfer high-skilled professionals to the United States.

Data obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows that the denial rate for L-1B petitions to transfer highly skilled professionals has increased at a high rate, reaching 35% in fiscal year 2014, marking a historic peak in denial rates since fiscal year 2006. In 2006, the denial rate was only 6%, which hiked to 30% in 2012 and 34% in 2013.

The denial rates for employees transferred to the US in 9 Fiscal years between 2006-2014 are as follows.

Fiscal YearL-1B Denial Rates

The analysis based on data released by USCIS reveals:

  • From fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2014, the average denial rate of L-1B petitions to transfer employees from other countries was 13%, whereas the denial rate to transfer employees of Indian origin is an astounding 56%.
  • Between fiscal year 2012 and 2014, a total of 25,296 petitions were filed by Indian nationals, of which 14,104 petitions were denied.
  • From the data we can infer that USCIS is more likely to deny cases for extension of L-1B status than an initial application.

The data for denial rate for extension of L-1B status from 2012 to 2014 is as follows.

Fiscal YearDenial Rate for Extension Applications

The data for denial rate for initial application of L-1B status from 2012 to 2014 is as follows.

Fiscal YearDenial Rate for Initial Applications

In FY 2004, 2% of (Request for Evidence) RFE were received but have continued at a very high rate of 45% in FY 2014. RFE is used by USCIS adjudicators to obtain more information for L-1B petitions.

RFE data from the past 3 years is as follows.

Fiscal YearRFE Rate

The Request for Evidence Rate for extension application was 40% and 49% for initial application in fiscal year 2014.

Effect of Denial

An L-1B visa helps U.S. employers transfer highly skilled professionals to the United States. As a result of the increasing number of L-1B petition denials and Request For Evidence denials, the ability to deliver services or products has been hampered for U.S. companies.

L-1B petitions are often rejected if a USCIS adjudicator or consular officer believes that a company could not have more than 3 to 5 high skilled individuals in a particular area.

Request for Evidence is a time consuming process and delays an application that directly affects the cost and potentially delay projects for months. It also affects the ability of U.S companies to fulfill their contract. It makes no sense to hire employees directly, when to wait years for the employment-based green cards.

Overview of L-1B Petition

L-1B status is granted to employees of US multinational companies or companies affiliated with a foreign employer. Apart from this, most eligibility criteria must be fulfilled to file an L-1B petition. The employee must have worked at least one out of the past three years abroad for the foreign employer in a specialized knowledge, managerial, or executive position.

L-1B status is valid for up to 5 years for an employee transferred with specialized knowledge. USCIS adjudication officers or consular officers make decisions for L-1B status. USCIS adjudications officers review individual petitions and the consular officer is responsible for adjudicating cases filed under a company’s L-1B petition.

This data is provided by the National Foundation for American Policy.