The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) obtained U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) records through its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In March 2017, the government issued a policy memo that dramatically changed the way USCIS adjudicates H-1B petitions. This policy change occurred right as petitioners submitted their annual H-1B cap petitions, which are accepted each April.
As a footnote to this internal memo, USCIS announced a new H-1B wage level policy. However, it did not provide enough guidance to staff on how to implement this change. Not coincidentally, the policy change and lack of training resulted in a 45% increase in the issuance of Requests for Evidence, as well as a significant increase in denials. Adjudicating officers lacked sufficient training materials and guidance on the new policy to ensure consistent, efficient, and timely processing of H-1B petitions. Emails released as a part of this inquiry indicate that clarifying guidance was not provided to staff until nearly a full year later.
This sudden change resulted in delayed approvals and in many Requests for Evidence (RFE) across the nation. These RFEs were often either a misapplication of the law or no more than fishing expeditions. Despite these RFEs, we were still able to find success for all of our selected H-1B petitions that year. We have since updated our H-1B process to identify potential issues in light of the policy change, decreasing even further our internal rate of Requests for Evidence. As always, we aim to prepare our applications as thoroughly as possible to make the process smooth for our clients. Still, we must be at the ready to address whatever changes this administration throws our way. The newly released documents are nothing new. Rather, they confirm what we have seen consistently under the current administration: a failure to administer immigration law fairly and efficiently.