Immigration Law

H-1B Visa Petition Revocations: the New Normal?

Laura D. Francis, Bloomberg, June 11, 2019

"Comtrix Solutions Inc., a Virginia-based health care staffing company, got approval to bring in skilled foreign workers on H-1B visas for several clients in October 2018, six months after it applied.

But by that time, the original clients had moved on because they couldn’t wait that long for workers whose appearance wasn’t even guaranteed. When the government caught wind of the change, it accused Comtrix of lying about where the workers would be placed and revoked the H-1B petitions on the grounds of fraud.

Immigration attorneys say such revocations, along with denying extensions of H-1Bs that used to be granted routinely, are the latest in a series of steps by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to crack down on the specialty occupation visa heavily used by tech companies. In April, employers submitted 201,011 petitions for 85,000 H-1B visas available starting in October.

“There’s no question that there are cases, H-1B petitions, that have been approvable for the last 20 years that aren’t approvable today,” said H. Ronald Klasko of Klasko Immigration Law Partners in Philadelphia. “The law hasn’t changed, just their standards.”

There are no publicly available records on how often H-1Bs are revoked.

But “revocations are now starting to be as common as denials,” which shot up to a total of 15.5% of all petitions decided in fiscal year 2018 from 7.4 percent the prior year, said Bradley Banias of Barnwell Whaley Patterson & Helms in Charleston, S.C.

The USCIS’ implementation of President Donald Trump‘s Buy American and Hire American executive order, released in April 2017, has resulted in a high level of H-1B scrutiny, with longer processing times and more denials for businesses, especially the information technology consulting industry. The industry has been flagged in the past for displacing U.S.-born tech workers.

Jonathan Wasden of Economic Immigration Support Services in Reston, Va., who’s filed a lawsuit on Comtrix’s behalf, accused USCIS of targeting staffing companies.

“They’re trying to prohibit the consulting industry from using the H-1B,” said Wasden, who recently joined the immigration firm Reddy & Newman as counsel for litigation. “It’s no accident that the delays” in H-1B processing last year “were really targeted toward the consulting industry,” he said."