U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has agreed to a settlement with the business group ITServe Alliance that overturns 10 years of policies restricting employers and H-1B visa holders. The settlement follows a pivotal March 10, 2020, District Court opinion that repudiated key USCIS actions and a May 20, 2020, judge’s opinion in Georgia that ruled against USCIS policies.
For many companies, the problems with USCIS began with the “Neufeld” memo issued on January 8, 2010. In that memo, USCIS asserted the authority to deny H-1B petitions based on a potentially restrictive understanding of what constituted an “employer-employee” relationship, including when an H-1B visa holder performed work at a customer’s location.
Issues for companies grew more severe during the Trump administration. “Denial rates for new H-1B petitions for initial employment rose from 6% in FY 2015 to 30% in the first quarter of FY 2020,” according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis. “As in earlier fiscal years, the highest denials rates are for companies that provide information technology or other business services to American companies.” While all 25 companies with the most approved new H-1B petitions saw their H-1B denial rates for initial employment increase, the denial rate for 12 major companies that provide IT services or other business consulting services increased by 20 percentage points or more compared to FY 2015.