A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Monday, November 19, 2018

37% Increase in Immigration Application Denials

USCIS has released data on immigration application denial rates in recent years. The data, which CATO institute organized in their blog, shows a 37% increase in application denials from 2017 (8.3% denial) to 2018 (11.3% denial). Looking at the years 2016 to 2018, one can observe this upward trend especially in the most popular categories. Higher denial rates of immigration applications, reflecting the more restrictive immigration policy under the Trump Administration, deter foreign nationals from filing for U.S. visas and other immigration benefits. For example, the U.S. State Department reported a 17% decline in the number of F-1 visas issued to foreign students in FY2016. 

Generally, denial rates have risen in almost every category. Specifically, the I-129 Nonimmigrant Worker petition denials increased from 16.8% in 2016 to 22.6% in 2018. This includes the popular H-1B work visa, which allows an employer to sponsor hi-tech and professional workers. Many foreign workers rely on H-1B visas to stay in the U.S. The current denial rate means more than 1 in 5 will likely go out of status, meaning they must stop working and leave the country.

Form I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) denials increased from 6.0% in 2016 to 9.6% in 2018. An EAD allows the holder to work legally and is granted through many different conditions. For examples, EADs are commonly requested by students in Optional Practical Training (OPT) and those pending Adjustment of Status (Form I-485). Without this document, foreigners cannot work legally and may be forced to depart the U.S.

The most dramatic difference is observed in I-131 Advanced Parole documents, which are needed for foreign nationals to reenter the U.S. after international travel. Denials jumped from 8.3 percent in 2016 to 18.1 percent in 2018. Also, denials for I-539 Applications to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status rose from 15.6% in 2016 to 17.5% in 2018. Not only is it more difficult to gain legal status, but also to keep or change it.

It is also now more difficult to become an immigrant in the U.S. There are various ways one can be sponsored to apply for legal permanent residence, and all have increased denial rates. The denial rate for I-485 Employment-Based Adjustment to Permanent Residence rose slightly from 5.9% in 2016 to 7.9% in 2018, while the I-140 Immigration Petition for Workers increased from 6.3% in 2016 to 8.6% in 2018. Family-Based Adjustment of Status denials increased from 11.8% to 13%.  I-129F fiancĂ©(e) visa denial rates grew substantially from 13.6% in 2016 to 21.8% in 2017, remaining at 21% in 2018.  It has also become more difficult for citizens and immigrants to petition for their relatives.

These statistics are unsurprising. Over the course of the current administration, USCIS has gradually tightened its policies. Adjudication standards have been tightened significantly, and rules and requirements have been toughened. In addition to foreign students, we are also losing hi-tech and skilled workers to other countries, resulting in long-term social and economic loss to the U.S.

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