About 23 per cent of new petitions seeking H1-B visas for the US were denied in the 2019 fiscal year, the External Affairs Ministry said.
In a written reply in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said according to statistics of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a total 116,031 initial or new H-1B petitions were processed and completed in the Fiscal Year 2019, out of which 27,707 petitions - accounting for about 23.9 per cent - were denied.
"Indian nationals account for nearly 70 per cent of all H-1B visa issued, even though the share of Indian IT companies in the H-1B visa is relatively small," Muraleedharan said.
He said Indian nationals also accounted for about 93 per cent of all Employment Authorization Document issued to H-4 visa holding spouses of H-1B beneficiaries as per statistics available till December 2017.
In reply to another question, he said according to inputs received by the government, there is concern across the global IT industry operating in the US, inter alia, over approval rates for H-1B petitions, higher rate of rejection among IT service-focused companies and cost implications of higher scrutiny and additional requests for evidence.
According to H-1B petition statistics of the USCIS, 84.8 per cent of the total H-1B petitions processed and completed in Fiscal Year 2019 (October 2018-September 2019) were approved, as against 95.7 per cent of the total in Fiscal Year 2015 (October 2014-September 2015), he said.
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
Denial rates for H-1B petitions have increased significantly, rising from 6% in FY 2015 to 32% in the first quarter of FY 2019 for new H-1B petitions for initial employment, according to a National Foundation for American Policy(NFAP) analysis of USCIS data. Between FY 2015 and FY 2018 the denial rate for new H-1B petitions quadrupled from 6% to 24%.
However, between FY 2010 and 2015, the denial rate for initial H-1B petitions never exceeded 8%. Today the rate is 3 or 4 times higher.
Attorneys and employers believe denial rates have increased because USCIS and its adjudicators have raised the standard of proof for approving an H-1B petition, notes the NFAP analysis.
The opposition has been mounting pressure on the Narendra Modi-led government to work on the issue.
Earlier this month, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra slammed PM Modi saying while he held his "Howdy Mody" event in the US, the Trump administration had reduced H1-B visas for Indians seeking to work there.
"The question that everyone should ask the BJP government is that who is being benefitted during their tenure. The prime minister went to the United States and held his 'Howdy Mody' event but America increased the number of rejections of H1-B visas for those Indians wanting to work there," she said in a tweet.
(With inputs from PTI)