Latest USCIS Statistics: Increased Approval Rates and RFEs for H-1B & L-1 Petitions

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) statistics for the second quarter of FY 2020 show continued high levels of requests for evidence (RFEs) for H-1B and L-1 petitions, along with some improvement in H-1B and L-1 outcomes against Q2 of FY 2019.

The figures do not include outcomes from L-1 applications at U.S. consulates or ports of entry.

L-1 visa key statistics Q2 FY 2020

  • L-1 approval rate was 74.3% – an increase from 71.8% in 2019, but still down from 77.8% in 2018
  • 53.6% of L-1 petitions were issued RFEs
  • The rate of approval after RFE was 55.3%

H-1B visa key statistics Q2 FY 2020

  • H-1B approval rate was 87.1% – up almost 4% from 83.7% at the same time last year.
  • 35.8% of H-1B petitions were subject to RFEs, which is a slight increase from 35.3% during the same time last year.
  • The approval rate for H-1B petitions with an RFE was 68.2% in Q2 of FY 2020, higher than the 58.8% approval rate from the same quarter last year

O-1 visa key statistics Q2 FY 2020

  • O-1 approval rate was 89%, down slightly from 0.5% in the same period in FY 2019
  • O-1 petition RFE rate rose to 30.1%, an increase of over 2% from the second quarter of FY 2019.
  • Post-RFE approvals declined, to 64.8% from 67% in Q2 of FY 2019

What this means for employers & petitioners

The statistics indicate Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ directive remains largely effective in restricting applications for employer-sponsored nonimmigrant categories.

However, the slight improvements in H-1B and L-1 approvals are encouraging and highlight that the opportunity remains to secure US work visas.

While H-1B and L-1 visa petitions currently remain outside the temporary immigration suspension, this may change, subject to the findings of the report commissioned by Presidential Proclamation into the impact of nonimmigrant employment categories on the US domestic workforce.

Employers are therefore encouraged to take action now to complete employment-based visa petitions in the event future restrictions are forthcoming as a result of the report.

With RFE rates persisting at high levels, it’s more important than ever for petitioners and their employers to focus on building fully comprehensive applications. This should include a focus on over-documenting to satisfy the high evidential requirement and undertaking a stress-testing exercise on the complete application prior to submission to identify and resolve potential areas of query.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration is actively monitoring the impact of the pandemic on US immigration policy and application processing.

As the situation continues to develop, please contact our US immigration specialists for the latest advice for your specific circumstances.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Last updated: 26 May 2020