Many businesses, highly skilled international graduate students and technical workers in Arizona are concerned about reports that an increasing number of H-1B visa petitions are being denied. The H-1B Employer Data Hub was criticized by many when it was introduced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These critics saw it as a way for the administration to target negative attention toward businesses that make use of the program that allows companies to hire highly skilled international workers, typically in technical or scientific fields.

Further analysis of the data posted publicly indicates that USCIS is sharply restricting the number of H-1B petitions it approves. While only 6 percent of petitions were denied in 2015, 32 percent were denied in the first quarter of 2019 alone. Between 2015 and 2018, the denial rate grew by three times, from 6 percent to 24 percent. This means that the overall denial rate for new H-1B visa applications is now triple or quadruple what it was only a few years in the past. Immigration lawyers and employers say that USCIS has secretly raised the standards required for the approval of a petition.

Some traced the changes back to a 2017 executive order by President Donald Trump labeled “Buy American and Hire American.” Lawyers noted that USCIS does not have the authority to change the standards for H-1B approval without notice to the public or a formal process. They particularly noted concern about increased denials for existing H-1B workers, indicating that some new standards have to be applied to deny previously approved petitions.

Employers in the tech industry often rely on H-1B visa approvals for international workers, who are often recent graduates from top American universities. Companies can turn to immigration law attorneys for guidance and representation in navigating the H-1B application process.