Is the US missing out on skilled foreign graduates as H-1B visa denials increase?

Is the US missing out on skilled foreign graduates as H-1B visa denials increase?


In 2019, one in every five new petition for H-1B visas – a non-immigrant working visa that enables US companies to employ skilled foreign workers – were denied.

According to a report by the National Foundation for American Policy, the H-1B visa denial rate was even higher for Indian IT companies such as TCS and Infosys, compared to US firms.

The analysis also showed that all of the 27 companies that USCIS lists as the top employers of H-1B visa holders, including many of America’s best-known companies such as Amazon and Google, saw an increase in their H1-B visa denial rates for initial employment between 2015 and 2019.

The report stated, “Denials have increased because USCIS and its adjudicators have raised the standard of proof for approving an H-1B petition without any new law or regulation that would permit the agency to do so legally, according to attorneys and employers.”

“The new policies began in April 2017, after Donald Trump issued the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. The policies and its results indicate the term ‘merit-based’ immigration is more a rhetorical device aimed at gaining support to reduce family admissions, rather than a set of policies designed to facilitate high-skilled immigration.”

It was also noted in the report that USCIS seems to be accomplishing the Trump administration’s goal of making it more difficult for well-educated and highly-skilled foreign graduates to work in America.

Indian students heading to other countries amidst H-1B visa difficulties

Given the increased rate of denials, Indian students are looking elsewhere for easier work and immigration pathways.

The UK recently reported an increase in international student enrolments after the re-introduction of the two-year post-study work visa, dubbed the Graduate Immigration Route (GIR).

According to, a total of 57,199 Tier 2 skilled work visas in 2019 were issued to Indian graduates, a three percent increase from the year before. In 2019, 37,540 Indian students also received a Tier 4 study visa, compared to 19,479 in 2018.

Jan Thompson, Acting High Commissioner to India, said, “This phenomenal increase in student visa numbers is testament both to the UK’s world-leading education system and to the exceptional talents of Indian students.”

“We couldn’t be prouder that the best and brightest continue to pick the UK, making the living bridge between our countries stronger each day.”

Canada is also seeing high numbers of Indian immigrants and students due to efforts by the government to attract more skilled talent.

Forbes recently reported that the number of Indian nationals who became permanent residents in Canada increased from 39,340 in 2016 to 80,685 in 2019 – an increase of over 105 per cent.

Peter Rekai, founder of the Toronto-based immigration law firm Rekai LLP,  told Forbes, “Canada is benefiting from a diversion of young Indian tech workers from US destinations, largely because of the challenges of obtaining and renewing H-1B visas and finding a reliable route to US permanent residence.”

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