3 Key Impressions From Newly Released USCIS RFE Data

October 21, 2019

As Fiscal Year 2020 ended, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released some helpful data that provides a transparent look at the number of petitions USCIS received for various nonimmigrant visas, a well as corresponding request for evidence (RFE) rates.

With help from Envoy’s affiliated law firm, Global Immigration Associates (GIA), Envoy has identified trends and how numbers have changed since we last examined RFE rates.

H-1B RFE Rates Rise for 3rd Straight Fiscal Year

In FY 2019, USCIS received a total of 420,617 Form I-129 petitions. It comes as no surprise that USCIS received the largest number of Form I-129 petitions during the third quarter (April - June), as the H-1B lottery opened April 1. The regular cap closed in five business days, while the master’s cap closed shortly thereafter

Of the petitions submitted and completed, 40.2% of them received an RFE. USCIS has not stated the top reasons for RFEs, but it would not be surprising if they release this information later in the year or sometime in 2020.

Even so, the increase in RFE rates during FY 2019 comes as no surprise, according to Christopher J. Preston, Managing Attorney at GIA.

“Increasing RFE rates illustrate the level of increased scrutiny out of USCIS,” says Preston. “I would expect FY 2020 to continue this trend.”

Approval Percentage Slightly Increases

Once a petition receives an RFE and is re-submitted, it’s approved 65.4% of the time, according to USCIS data.

While the approval percentage is a decline from previous fiscal years, it actually increased when compared to FY 2018.

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RFE Rates for Other Visas Increase

USCIS is not only scrutinizing H-1B visa petitions; the agency is also issuing more RFEs for other visa types.

Most notable is the L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager and the L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge.

USCIS does not separate RFE rates between the two, but the data shows an increase in L-1A and L-1B RFE rates, starting in FY 2017.

The approved with RFE percentage is also interesting to examine. After declining to 49.4% in FY 2017, the approved with RFE percentage for L-1A/L-1B petitions increased to 52.9% in FY 2018 and 50.8% in FY 2019.

This latest data release, once again, indicates USCIS will continue to apply strict scrutiny for H-1B visa petitions and other employment-based visa petitions. You can view the entirety of USCIS’ data by clicking here.

For more information or if you have any questions regarding RFEs, please reach out to your Envoy-affiliated attorney or appropriate legal counsel.

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Christopher J. Preston, who is a Managing Attorney at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (www.giafirm.com), Envoy’s affiliated law firm.

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