Law360 (June 16, 2020, 10:55 PM EDT) -- A New Jersey laboratory software provider sued the Trump administration Tuesday for refusing to allow an Indian employee to transfer to its U.S. office, alleging that the action undermines pharmaceutical companies' development of products to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
LabVantage Solutions Inc. told a D.C. federal court that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wrongly denied the company's February 2019 petition for senior associate consultant Debjit Chakrabarty to transfer from its India office to the U.S. with an L-1B nonimmigrant visa, based on the agency's determination that he lacked specialized knowledge.
USCIS ignored an abundance of evidence showing that Chakrabarty's five years of experience working with LabVantage proprietary laboratory information management systems, or LIMS, technology constitutes specialized knowledge under federal law, according to the complaint.
"This is experience he could have gained only through his work at LabVantage India and is not transferable, nor can it be possessed by someone outside of LabVantage, given that the LIMS is unique and proprietary," the company said.
LabVantage's clients include Roche, an international laboratories company that is leading the fight against COVID-19 with its antibody testing, according to the complaint.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act — a statute that outlines visa eligibility requirements — companies seeking to temporarily transfer employees from their foreign offices to the U.S. must show that these transferees worked abroad for at least one year in the last three years in a senior-level position that involved specialized knowledge to qualify for an L-1B visa, according to the complaint.
LabVantage said that it submitted multiple letters with its visa petition seeking to transfer Chakrabarty to a senior software engineering position in the U.S. in which its managers attested to the fact that Chakrabarty has specialized knowledge that could only be obtained by working at the company.
But USCIS ignored this evidence by concluding that Chakrabarty didn't work in a senior-level position that involved specialized knowledge and that specialized knowledge wasn't required to fill LabVantage's senior software engineering position in the U.S., according to the complaint.
The company argued that, based on the agency's own guidelines, it only needed to show that Chakrabarty's positions in the U.S. and India likely involved specialized knowledge, which it said it did, and asked the court to order USCIS to approve its L-1B visa petition for Chakrabarty.
"While petitioner bears the burden to submit sufficiently probative evidence to meet the applicable evidentiary standard, that standard does not permit an officer to entirely disregard credible evidence, or deny an L-1B petition merely because he or she believes different or additional evidence could have been submitted to further corroborate the claim," LabVantage said.
Representatives for LabVantage and the federal government did not respond to requests for comment.
LabVantage is represented by Montserrat C. Miller and Jeffrey S. Jacobovitz of Arnall Golden Gregory LLP.
The federal government is represented by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Division.
The case is LabVantage Solutions Inc. v. Gregory Richardson et al., case number 1:20-cv-01573, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
--Editing by Steven Edelstone.
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