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Obama administration questioned over denial of H-1B, L1 visas

PTI     February 17, 2012
Voicing concern over increasing rates of denial of H-1B and L1 work visas that are popular among Indian professionals, top US lawmakers and corporate bigwigs have questioned the Obama administration over the issue, warning this would hurt American business interests.

Officials at a Congressional hearing cited last year's figure of 26 per cent denial to H1B visa applicants - the highest in recent years - and also pointed out instances where the visas were denied for flimsy reasons.

Elton Gallegly, chair of the Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, said figures obtained from US Citizenship and Immigration Services show a rise in denial in certain categories of visas between the years of 2008 and 2010.

Gallegly said many in the business community are concerned that their petitions for foreign workers are being denied and they are being required to answer excessive requests for additional evidence, known as RFEs.

"But why did denial and free rates go up? And it very well could be because of the statutory changes that were implemented and major decisions that were issued," he said.

Ranking member, Zoe Lofgren said latest figures show there has been a sizable increase in denial rates for key businesses visas and in some categories, the denial on RFE rates has increased by 300 to 500 per cent during the Obama administration.

The Congresswomen said that in many cases the denial was not justified.

"I had a recent case in which the USCIS denied an employment-based petition because the adjudicator determined that the company only had $15,000 in annual revenues and, therefore, couldn't possibly pay the worker.

"It turned out, however, that the adjudicator had failed to note that the figures were listed in thousands. It was actually $15 million in revenue," she said.

Lofgren also cited instances when an applicant was denied visa due to a bureaucratic mistake.

"If you take a look at the H-1B denial rates... in the year 2004, the denial rate was 11 per cent on H-1Bs. In the year 2011 it's 17. When you take a look at the request for evidence rates, in 2004 it was 4 per cent. In 2011, it was 26 per cent. I mean, that's a big jump," she said.

"In the L-1B request for evidence rates it was two per cent in 2004; 63 per cent in 2011. So you're really ramping up the evidentiary standards in the inquiry. Certainly we don't want fraud, but there is a price to pay as well if it's a legitimate effort and it's delayed unduly," the Congresswoman said.

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