US denies more work visas to Indians: report says

US immigration authorities, in the past four years, have denied more work-related visas, with India-born professionals being refused at higher rates than nationals of other countries, an American think tank said in a report today.

Analysis of new data obtained from US Citizenship and Immigration Services showed the agency had increased denials of L-1 and H-1B petitions beginning 2008, thus harming the competitiveness of US employers and encouraging companies to keep more jobs and resources outside the country, said the report released by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

The report entitled "Data Reveal High Denial Rates for L-1 and H-1 Petitions at USCIS" indicated most of the increase in denials involves India-born professionals and researchers.

The denial rate for India-born applicants for new L-1B petitions rose from 2.8 per cent in fiscal year 2008 to 22.5 per cent in FY 2009, a substantial increase that resulted in many employers being unable to transfer their employees into the US to work on research projects or serve customers, it said.

Illustrating the abrupt change, immigration authorities denied more L-1B petitions for new petitions for Indians in FY 2009 (1,640) than in the previous nine fiscal years combined (1,341 denials between FY 2000 and FY 2008), it said.

The report noted, "If one considers that in FY 2011 63 per cent of all L-1B petitions received a Request for Evidence and 27 per cent were issued a denial, that means US Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicators denied or delayed between 63 per cent to 90 per cent of all L-1B petitions in 2011."

"USCIS adjudicators have demonstrated a capacity to keep skilled foreign nationals out of the US by significantly increasing denials, along with often time-consuming Requests for Evidence, despite no change in the law or relevant regulations," said Stuart Anderson, NFAP's executive director.

According to the report, denial rates for L-1B petitions filed with USCIS, which are used to transfer employees with "specialised knowledge" into the US, rose from seven per cent in 2007 to 22 per cent in 2008, despite no change in the law or relevant regulation.

The denial rates stayed high for L-1B petitions at 26 per cent in 2009, 22 per cent in 2010 and 27 per cent in 2011. In addition, 63 per cent of L-1B petitions in 2011 were at least temporarily denied or delayed due to a Request for Evidence.

Denial rates for H-1B petitions increased from 11 per cent in 2007 to 29 per cent in 2009, and remained higher than in the past for H-1Bs at 21 per cent in 2010 and 17 per cent in 2011, it said.

"The dramatic increase in denial rates and Requests for Evidence for employment petitions without any change in the law or regulations raises questions about the training, supervision and procedures of the career bureaucracy that adjudicates petitions and the US government's commitment to maintaining a stable business climate for companies competing in the global economy," the report said.

The NFAP said given the resources involved, employers are selective about who they sponsor. The high rate of denials (and Requests for Evidence) come from a pool of applicants selected because US employers believe the foreign nationals meet the standard for approval.

"Denying employers the ability to transfer in key personnel or gain entry for a skilled professional or researcher harms innovation and job creation in the United States, encouraging employers to keep more resources outside the country to ensure predictability," the report said.

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