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Washington, D.C. Restaurant Wins Specialized Knowledge Visa Fight with DHS

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has rejected U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services’ determination that “inherent knowledge a person gains as a result of his or her upbringing, family and community traditions, and overall assimilation to one’s native culture necessarily falls into the realm of general knowledge” and therefore cannot not considered “specialized knowledge” as required for L-1B, intra-company transfer visa.  In its October 21, 2014 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a  district court’s decision granting summary judgment for the government and remanded the case for further proceedings. Fogo De Chao (Holdings) Inc v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, No. 13-5301 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 21, 2014).   

In 2010, Fogo de Chao applied for an L-1B visa on behalf of Rones Gasparetto, a Brazilian churrasqueiro, a restaurant employee who cooks a variety of meats on skewers resting on a support over charcoal embers or wood, in one Brazilian version of this food preparation technique.  Mr. Gasparetto had been employed as a “Churrasqueiro Chef” in Sao Paulo, Brazil since May 1, 2007, and had worked in the same capacity in another of Fogo de Chao’s Brazilian affiliates from June 2006 through February 2007.  He was able to perform the duties of “Churrasqueiro Chef” as a result of both his training with the company and his rural upbringing participating in the churrasco tradition in southern Brazil.  USCIS concluded that the petition that Mr. Gasparetto’s culinary skills, knowledge of his native regional culture, and “authenticity” gained through his life experiences could not, as a matter of law, constitute “specialized knowledge” of the company’s product.  The district court deferred to USCIS’ interpretation of “specialized knowledge under Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). See Fogo De Chao Churrascaria, LLC v. Department of Homeland Security, 959 F. Supp. 2d 32, 44–49 & n.5 (D.D.C. 2013). 

The appellate court, however, concluded that the USCIS determination, which had been issued through a non-precedential decision by the Administrative Appeals Office, was not entitled to deference.  The court reasoned that nothing in the statute precludes culturally acquired knowledge from being taken into account as “specialized knowledge” for L-1B visa consideration.  Similarly, the court found that established USCIS policy and guidance regarding “specialized knowledge” in no way categorically excludes cultural knowledge from this determination.   This decision could broaden the range of professionals eligible for transferee specialized knowledge visas.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 296
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About this Author

Michael H. Neifach Jackson Lewis Employment visa Lawyer border security matters attorney
Principal

Michael Neifach is a Principal in the Washington, D.C. Region office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a recognized leader on immigration, visa and border security matters, and he is Co-Leader of the firm's Immigration practice group.

Mr. Neifach has held senior positions at the White House Homeland Security Council, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He served as General Counsel at ICE from July 2007 through January 2009. Following his government service, Mr. Neifach oversaw...

(703) 483-8300
Minnie Fu, Jackson Lewis, Immigration Litigation Lawyer, Employment VISA Applications attorney
Principal

Minnie Fu is a Principal in the Washington, D.C. Region office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on assisting employers in obtaining employment-related visas and advising employers on compliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations.

Ms. Fu has twenty years of experience in employment-based immigration matters, including nonimmigrant and immigrant visa matters, developing corporate immigration policies and procedures for best practices, and strategic corporate planning for international personnel employment by...

703-483-8311
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