Main image of article H-1B Denials: Which Tech Companies Are Getting Hit the Hardest?

Denial rates for initial H-1B applications continue to rise, according to a new analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). But not all H-1B employers are created equal when it comes to these denials; business services and consulting firms continue to face a rising number of rejections compared to the pre-Trump era.

Crunching numbers from the USCIS H-1B Employer Data Hub, NFAP discovered that denial rates for H-1B petitions for initial employment have risen from 6 percent during fiscal year 2015 to 29 percent through the second quarter of fiscal year 2020. That is a marked increase from 21 percent in fiscal year 2019, as well as a jump from the 24 percent dial rate in FY 2018.

Compare those numbers to a decade ago, when the denial rate hovered around 8 percent. In addition, denial rates are rising for all large tech companies, through at generally a far lower rate than the big consulting and business-services firms that subcontract H-1B workers to other firms. 

“The highest denial rates continue to be for companies that provide information technology or other business services to American companies,” the NFAP wrote in its report (PDF). “The data indicate USCIS has established a different standard for deciding cases for companies that provide information technology (IT) services. Immigration law does not have a different standard for adjudications based on the type of firm or the location work will be performed.”

Here’s the company-by-company breakdown. If IBM’s denial rate seems high in comparison to other tech giants such as Amazon or Google, keep in mind that Big Blue also has a substantial business-services and consulting arm that’s likely taking the brunt of the denials:

Over the past few years, the Trump administration has enacted several measures to restrict the H-1B and other visas, climaxing with the President’s recent executive order that temporarily freezes new work visas. Although that order is framed as temporary, there’s always a chance that Trump could extend it further after the election. 

In addition, USCIS announced last month that it would adjust fees for visas, including the H-1B. This new fee structure, which includes a $4,000 price tag for renewals, could make things much more expensive for those consultancies that have built their business model around accumulating lots of H-1B workers and then subcontracting them out to other companies. 

The degree of those changes will hinge on the results of the Presidential election, of course, as well as the outcome of a few lawsuits currently working their way through the court system. In the meantime, however, the rate of denials for initial H-1B applications shows no sign of slowing down.