Starting this summer, employers began noticing that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was challenging an unusually large number of H-1B applications. Cases that would have sailed through the approval process in earlier years ground to a halt under requests for new paperwork. The number of challenges -- officially known as "requests for evidence" or RFEs -- are up 44 percent compared to last year, according to statistics from USCIS.
"We're entering a new era," said Emily Neumann, an immigration lawyer in Houston who has been practicing for 12 years. "There's a lot more questioning, it's very burdensome." She said in past years she's counted on 90 percent of her petitions being approved by Oct. 1 in years past. This year, only 20 percent of the applications have been processed. Neumann predicts she'll still have many unresolved cases by the time next year's lottery happens in April 2018.