United States District Court, W.D. Washington
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Chung Song Ja Corporation, Kyung Mi Lee, Plaintiff: William Frick, MERCER ISLAND, WA.
For U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency of the United States Government, Department of Homeland Security, an agency of the United States Government, Defendant: Hans H. Chen, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (BOX 868), WASHINGTON, DC.
ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This matter comes before the Court on the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. Dkts. #16 and #21. Plaintiff Chung Song Ja Corp. (" CSJ" ) argues that Defendant U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (" USCIS" ) improperly denied its application for an H-1B temporary worker visa, of which Ms. Kyungmi Lee would have been the beneficiary. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Defendant improperly determined that the position which Ms. Lee would have filled does not qualify as a " specialty occupation" and that Ms. Lee was not qualified for such position in any event. Dkt. #21. Defendant responds that it properly denied the H-1B visa petition because the proffered job does not meet the statutory and regulatory criteria for a " specialty occupation" and because Ms. Lee was not qualified as a specialty occupation worker. Dkt. #16. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court disagrees with Defendants, DENIES their Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.
CSJ is an acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine practice in Lynnwood, WA, with three employees. Dkt. # 17, Certified Administrative Record (" CAR" ) at 21-27. On April 8, 2013, CSJ filed a Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS seeking to classify Kyungmi Lee, a citizen of South Korea, as a nonimmigrant special occupation worker under section 101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (" INA" ). Id. CSJ sought to employ Ms. Lee as a part time " Health Care Manager" in its Lynnwood office, for 20 hours per week. Id. at 24-26. In its Filing Fee Exemption Supplement, CSJ represented that Ms. Lee held a Bachelor's degree in management. Id. at 30.
On June 3, 2013, USCIS issued a Request for Evidence, asking CSJ to submit additional evidence pertaining to the subject job offer, including information about the Company's name and location, evidence pertaining to the proffered position including position requirements, job description, and standards for the specialty occupation position, information regarding Ms. Lee's education and degree, the nature of her specific duties at CSJ, the nature of CSJ's business, and evidence pertaining to Ms. Lee's qualifications. CAR at 33-42. On August 20, 2013, CSJ responded, providing documents pertaining to the corporation, such as its business license and financial documents; a job description and nature of Ms. Lee's duties in the proffered position; an organizational chart; an expert opinion evaluation letter pertaining to whether the Health Care Manager position is a " specialty occupation" ; and an evaluation of Ms. Lee's training and/or experience by Dr. Audrey Guskey at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. CAR at 43-107 and 132-155.
CSJ described Ms. Lee's duties as follows:
o Manage and coordinate personnel, finance, and facility operations, 20%;
o Manage the administration of patients and their records, and maintain patient records to comply with regulations and ensure that databases are complete, accurate, and available only to authorized personnel, 30%;
o Establish and implement policies, objectives, and procedures for the health care center, evaluate personnel and work quality, create employee work schedules, develop reports and budgets,
and coordinate activities with health care workers, 20%;
o Oversee personnel matters, billing and collection, budgeting, planning, equipment outlays, and patient flow, 30%.
CAR at 64.
On November 4, 2013, USCIS denied the H-1B visa application on two grounds -- first, that CSJ had failed to demonstrate the offered position is a " specialty occupation" within the meaning of the applicable regulations; and second, even assuming that the position did qualify as a specialty occupation, it had not established that Ms. Lee was qualified to perform the services of the specialty occupation through equivalency to completion of a United States baccalaureate or higher degree in the specialty occupation. CAR at 2-19.
As a result, Plaintiffs filed the instant action on February 5, 2014, seeking a reversal of USCIS's decision and an Order directing the agency to grant Plaintiff's H1-B Petition pursuant to section 706 of the Administrative Procedure Act (" APA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 706. Dkt. #1. The parties now seek to resolve the matter through cross-motions for summary judgment.
III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS
A. Judicial Review of Administrative Decision
The Administrative Procedure Act authorizes judicial review where a person " suffer[s] legal wrong because of agency action, or [is] adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of the relevant statute." 5 U.S.C. § 702. The reviewing district court is, in turn, empowered to set aside a final agency action if it is " arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The standard is " highly deferential, presuming the agency action to be valid." Kern County Farm Bureau v. Allen, 450 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2006). Even so, the reviewing court properly sets aside an agency decision where " there is no evidence to support the decision or if the decision was based on an improper understanding of the law." Kazarian v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 596 F.3d 1115, 1118 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted).
The agency's factual findings are reviewed for substantial evidence and will not be disturbed " unless the evidence presented would compel a reasonable finder of fact to reach a contrary result." Family Inc. v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 469 F.3d 1313, 1315 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal citation omitted; emphasis in original). Similarly, the Court gives the agency's interpretation of its own regulations " substantial deference" and " controlling weight unless doing so is inconsistent with the regulation or plainly erroneous." Independent Acceptance Co. v. California, 204 F.3d 1247, 1251 (9th Cir. 2000). ...