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Immigration Bulletin – H-1B Initial Petition Denial Rate at All-Time High of 32%


An April 10, 2019 article published at acknowledges that the H-1B denial rate for initial petitions is up 8% in the first quarter of 2019 from 2018, and has reached an all-time high of 32%.

Although it was not specifically defined in the article, the term “initial petition” generally describes an employer’s first H-1B petition on behalf of an individual beneficiary and includes all H-1B petitions with Form I-129 marked for “new employment.” As such, the 32% denial rate apparently applies to both H-1B Cap petitions (i.e., those submitted in the annual lottery) and H-1B transfer petitions (i.e., those submitted when a beneficiary wishes to change employers).

By way of comparison, and as reflected in the data from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the H-1B initial petition denial rate from 2010 to 2015 remained at or below 8% and, in 2016 and 2017, did not exceed 15%. Subsequently, the H-1B initial petition denial rate hit 24% in 2018 and has only continued to rise. These numbers reflect an increased standard of proof that has been implemented by USCIS adjudicators as a result of internal policy, as opposed to new law or regulation.

While the scrutiny at USCIS continues, we, as always, will continue to work with clients to prepare H-1B petitions that address these new and evolving standards.

Please contact any member of the Cohen & Grigsby Immigration Department if you have any questions regarding the above at 412.297.4900. To receive future bulletins and news alerts, please send an e-mail to

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