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Thread: Article: Fogo De Chao v. DHS: A Signigicant Decision for L-1B Specialized Foreign Chefs and Beyond By Cyrus D. Mehta

  1. #1

    Article: Fogo De Chao v. DHS: A Signigicant Decision for L-1B Specialized Foreign Che



    The best way for a great nation of immigrants such as America to showcase its richness and diversity is through fine ethnic restaurants. A better appreciation of different cuisines can also foster tolerance and social harmony. Cities and towns become more interesting and
    thrive if they have restaurants with diverse cuisines. For such restaurants to exist,
    though, there needs to be an immigration policy that would allow restaurants to
    access foreign specialty chefs. This unfortunately is not the case. The United
    States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) views applications for
    chefs under the limited and narrowly drawn nonimmigrant visa categories with a
    jaundiced eye. One such pathway for chefs is the L-1B visa for specialized
    knowledge employees who are being transferred from a foreign entity to a
    qualifying US entity. The Brazilian restaurant chain Fogo de Chao successfully brought in 200 specialty chefs on the L-1B visa, when the USCIS changed its mind and denied one of their visas.
    The restaurant appealed the denial.

    On October 21, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Fogo
    de Chao v. DHS
    , No. 13-5301, skewered the USCIS for denying the L-1B
    visa to a Brazilian churrasqueiro or gaucho chef. Fogo de Chao contended that it sought to recreate for its customers in the United States an authentic churrascaria experience,
    and it did so by employing a number of gaucho chefs from Brazil who learned
    this style of cooking first hand by growing up in the Rio Girande do Sul region
    and through training and at least two years of experience in Fogo de Chao’s
    Brazilian restaurants. A gaucho chef who possessed this knowledge would be capable
    of i) preparing and cooking five to six skewers of meat on an open grill; ii)
    circulating through the dining room to carve meats for guests; iii) educating
    those guests about both the cuts of meat being served and gaucho culinary and
    cultural traditions, and iv) monitoring the estimated future demand for food
    over the course of the evening.

    The key issue in Fogo was whether a foreign national chef could gain such specialized
    knowledge through one’s own cultural traditions, upbringing or life experience.
    The USCIS, including its Administrative Appeals Office, held that one’s own
    cultural upbringing falls within the realm of general knowledge rather than
    specialized knowledge, and thus such a chef would not qualify for an L-1B visa.
    The Court of Appeals in Fogo disagreed
    with the USCIS’s rather wooden
    application of the law. (Many immigration practitioners like me will take great
    delight in the scolding given to the USCIS for being so wooden as we have experienced this
    tendency first hand!) The Fogo Court
    held that there was nothing in INA section 214(c)(2)(B) which precludes culturally
    acquired knowledge as a form of specialized knowledge. That INA section defines
    specialized knowledge in a rather circular way, as follows:

    …an alien is
    considered to be serving in a capacity involving specialized knowledge with
    respect to a company if the alien has a special knowledge of the company
    product and its application in international markets or has an advanced level
    of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company

    A government agency’s interpretation of an
    ambiguous statute is entitled to deference under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council,
    467 U.S. 837 (1984)
    —often abbreviated as “Chevron deference”. Most
    are deterred from seeking review of a “wooden” decision in federal court to
    challenge an erroneous decision of the USCIS because of the Chevron deference the court will give to the government’s interpretation of a particular visa statutory provision.  The FogoCourt gave no such deference because the USCIS regulation at 8 CFR section 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D) merely parroted the statutory L-1B definition in the same circular manner, and a parroting regulation deserves no deference. Gonzales v Oregon, 546 US 243, 257
    (2006). Instead, the Court applied the lower standard under Skidmore v. Swift Co, 323 U.S. 134 (1944) where the weight accorded to an administrative interpretation or
    judgment “depends upon the thoroughness evident in its consideration, the
    validity of its reasoning, its consistency with earlier and later pronouncements,
    and all those facts which give it power to persuade, if lacking power to
    control.”Even under the lower Skidmore standard, the Fogo Court held that the Administrative Appeals Office lacked the power
    to persuade that it could categorically exclude cultural knowledge as a basis
    for specialized knowledge.

    Also noteworthy in Fogo was the government’s dismissal of the relevance of the economic hardship the restaurant would suffer if it had to train another
    employee to perform the gaucho chef’s proposed duties.The Fogo Court disagreed, emphasizing that economic inconvenience is sometimes the most concrete evidence that can be used to determine whether knowledge is specialized. According to the Fogo Court: “Consideration of evidence of this type provides some predictability to a comparative analysis otherwise relatively devoid of settled guideposts….That specialized knowledge may ultimately be a ‘relative and empty idea which cannot have plain meaning’ not a feature to be celebrated and certainly not a
    license for the government to apply a sliding scale of specialness that varies
    from petition to petition without explanation. Suddenly departing from policy
    guidance and rejecting outright the relevance of Fogo de Chao’s evidence of economic
    inconvenience threatens just that.” Id.
    at 28 (citations omitted).

    Although Fogo applied to a Brazilian gaucho chef, it can arguably be applied
    to other occupations involving specialized knowledge. Skills gained through
    certain cultural practices may be relevant in determining specialized knowledge
    in other settings, such as Japanese management techniques. Similarly, acquiring
    deep knowledge in a particular software application through another employer
    can equip the L-1B visa applicant with specialized knowledge that can stand out
    in comparison to others. Moreover, demonstrating economic hardship as a way to
    prove specialized knowledge has gained more force after Fogo. The 1994 Puleo
    was resurrected in Fogo, which
    endorsed a dictionary definition of the terms “special” and “advance” rather
    than soley tether specialized knowledge to the company’s products or processes.
    Fogo has also paved the way to argue
    that the USCIS’s interpretation of specialized knowledge does not deserve Chevron deference. Finally, Fogo ought to potentially have more precedential
    value than other circuit court decisions since under 28 U.S.C. §1391(e)(1)(B) a petitioner could seek review in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as the Administrative Appeals
    Office is located in the District of Columbia.

    In recent times, the USICS has had the
    upper hand in L-1B visa adjudications by literally reading specialized
    knowledge out of the statute. Fogo thus comes as a breath of fresh air and
    should hopefully temper the USCIS’s zeal in “woodenly” debarring specialized
    knowledge workers who can otherwise bring great value to America. We all need
    to forcefully deploy the hidden nuggets in Fogo
    to restore the more commonsensical definition of specialized knowledge.

    This post originally appeared on The Insightful Immigration Blog on October 26, 2014. Reprinted with permission.

    About The Author

    Cyrus D. Mehta

    Cyrus D. Mehta is the founder and managing attorney of Cyrus D. Mehta & Associates, PLLC (CDMA). He represents corporations and individuals from around the world in business and employment immigration, family immigration, consular matters, naturalization, federal court litigation and asylum. He also advises lawyers on ethical issues. Based on 20 years of experience in immigration law, he is able to comprehend all kinds of problems and provide effective, ethical and strategic solutions to his clients. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School where he teaches a course, Immigration and Work. Cyrus D. Mehta's current profile can be found at Cyrus D. Mehta & Associates, PLLC website.

    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of

  2. #2
    selling out American workers....must make you proud.

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