In Add Chapter Design LLC v. Nielsen et al, [1] after months of legal battle with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other related parties in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, a victorious decision was made. The previously denied L-1A Intracompany Transferee Manager extension petition was finally approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Shortly before filing a Summary Judgement Motion against the defendants, USCIS decided to reopen and reconsider the previous denial.

Although providing more than enough evidence to meet the preponderance of evidence standard through the initial filing of the L-1A extension and through the response to the Request for Evidence (RFE), a Denial Notice was sent by USCIS in March of 2018.

With conviction that the USCIS’ actions were “arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law,” Rabindra Singh, lead council on the case, filed a Federal District Court Complaint seeking review of USCIS’ inaccurate decision. The complaint argued that USCIS had failed to apply and interpret relevant statutes.

Brief History of the Case

Chapter Design LLC (Add Chapter USA) is a Chicago based affiliate company of Add Chapter Dubai, an advertising company in the United Arab Emirates with ten employees in various positions. At the time of filing the L-1A extension application, Add Chapter USA had two employees, a professional and a supervisory level worker. The extension petition provided supporting documents and information that demonstrated the U.S. company’s new U.S. clients and explained the role and value that the L-1A beneficiary would continue to contribute in the expansion of the new company.

After filing the petition, the USCIS sent a Request for Evidence asking for a detailed statement in regards to the duties to be performed by the beneficiary; and how the beneficiary will supervise the work of those he plans to supervise. The RFE also requested an explanation demonstrating that they had enough U.S. employees to justify the addition of the beneficiary.

The response to the RFE included detailed information on the beneficiary’s responsibilities for each job duty as stated on the previously submitted Letter of Support. Also provided was a chart detailing the beneficiary’s direct reports in both U.S. and UAE offices, their job duties, and how the beneficiary will be supervising them. Ultimately, even after providing substantial evidence in both the initial filing and the response to the RFE, the USCIS denied the petition to extend.

Winning Arguments

The Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) in Matter of Z-A-, Inc. Adopted Decision 2016-02 on April 14, 2016,[2] declares that when determining if a beneficiary’s job duties are managerial, the USCIS officer adjudicating the petition “must” consider the “totality of the record and weigh all relevant factors.” This includes the following:

  • The nature and scope of the petitioner’s business including the organizational structure, staffing levels, and the beneficiary’s position within the organization.
  • The scope of the beneficiary’s authority within the organization.
  • The work performed by other staff within the petitioner’s organization, if those employees relieve the beneficiary from performing operational and administrative duties, and any other factors that contribute to the beneficiary’s actual duties and role within the business.

When considering staffing levels to determine if the beneficiary will be acting as a manager, as stated in the Policy Memorandum, the USCIS adjudicating officer must consider, “the reasonable needs of the ‘organization as a whole’, including any related entities within the ‘qualifying organization,’ giving consideration to the organization’s overall purpose and stage of development.” Since this decision is binding to all USCIS employees, it was argued that USCIS failed to follow its own binding policy guidance.

The denial focused largely on the number of employees at the U.S. entity. The complaint to the court argued that the organizational chart and other supporting documents providing evidence that the beneficiary not only supervised and provided managerial support to U.S. employees but also managed supervisory and professional level employees at the affiliate company in U.A.E, went overlooked by USCIS. In the binding policy, USCIS must consider the “organization as a whole,” including related entities within the qualifying organization. This was clearly ignored during adjudication.

Furthermore, it was argued that the adjudicating officer did not consider the “organization’s overall purpose and stage of development” when determining if the other staff would be relieving the beneficiary of operational or administrative duties.

It is important to provide detailed information and supporting documents in support of any visa petition. Any relevant arguments should be made and all relevant supporting documentation should be provided in both the initial filing and in any responses to an RFE. Strong administrative records are crucial when challenging a USCIS decision in any Federal District Court.