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USCIS denial rates jumped 37% in 2018

An analysis of the first three months of the 2018 fiscal year shows a steady increase in the number of immigration application denials.

A study by the Cato Institute finds that overall, the number of denials by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) jumped 37 percent between first quarter and third quarter of FY 2018. Those denials include various applications such as travel documents, work permits and green cards.

A growing trend

Examining the same categories since 2013, the research shows that the denial rate was 7.8 percent in 2013, 9.4 percent in 2014, 7.9 percent in 2015, 8.3 percent in 2016, 9.2 percent in 2017 and 11.3 percent in 2018.

The Cato Institute found the largest number of denials in:

Requests for advanced parole. These applications allow immigrants on temporary status advanced permission to reenter the country after a temporary stay abroad without losing their pending green card applications. The rate of denial went from 7.2 percent in 2017 to 18.1 percent in 2018.

Nonimmigrant worker petitions. Employers use this petition to allow a foreign worker to work in the U.S. Most common are the H-1B visa for high-skilled workers and H-2A for agricultural workers. The denial rate jumped from 16.8 percent in 2017 to 22.6 percent in 2018.

Employment authorization documents (EADs). Immigrants such as students and spouses of H-1B skilled workers use EADs to work while in the U.S. The denial rate for EADs went from 6 percent in 2017 to 9.6 percent in 2018.

Green card. The employment-based adjustment of status to permanent residence are used by employees of U.S. businesses to work in the country. The denial rate went from 5.9 percent in 2017 to 7.9 percent in 2018.

Petition for fiancé. This is used to bring a foreign-born fiancé into the U.S. for marriage to a U.S. citizen within 90 days. The denial rate jumped between 2016 (13.6 percent) and 2017 (21.8 percent), then stayed steady in 2018 (21 percent). This is likely due to news coverage that one of the San Bernardino shooters in 2015 entered the country to marry the other shooter, a U.S. citizen.

What the experts say

Several experts interviewed by the Society for Human Resource Management said the changes are having a profound effect on both immigration and job-hiring.

H-1Bs are the biggest target, one said, with increased emphasis on educational requirements, the nature of employer-employee relationship and whether the job is defined as a specialty occupation.

Another expert advised employers to examining other avenues, such as an E-1 or E-2 treaty visa or L-1 non-immigrant visa.

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