Information secured by the L.A. Times demonstrated a significant discrepancy in petition denial rates between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices. Both the California Service Center (located in Laguna Niguel) and the Vermont Service Center (located in St. Albans) adjudicate the following petition types: H (including H-1B specialty occupation/professional workers), L (intracompany transferees), O (persons of extraordinary ability) and P (artists, athletes and entertainers). While the L.A. Times article focused on complaints from Hollywood and the performing arts community about visa denials and slow processing, the data also shows substantial variations in other categories as well.
Data from 2008 to the present shows the CSC has a much greater denial rate for O and P petitions. For example, the CSC denied 26.8 percent and 19.6 percent of P and O petitions (respectively) during the October 2009 to July 2010 filing period while the VSC denied only 3.9 percent of P petitions and 5.5 percent of O petitions. While the VSC has a slightly higher denial rate for H petitions, the October 2009 to July 2010 period also shows that the CSC has denied 26.7 percent of L petitions as compared to 10.4 percent at the VSC. The article indicated that the head of USCIS, Alexander Mayorkas, pledged to improve processing times and consistency in deciding visa petitions.
Visa petitions must be filed with the USCIS office with jurisdiction over the beneficiary’s place of employment. Employers thus cannot easily “forum-shop” and select a service center for filing petitions.