United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
School of Gymnastics (“the School”) requested
that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
(“USCIS”) classify Ms. Viktoriia Savelieva as an
“alien of extraordinary ability, ” a status that
would allow her to enter the United States to work at the
School's gymnastics training center in Florida. As
evidence of Ms. Savelieva's ability and renown as a
gymnast, the School submitted documentation such as photos of
awards and trophies, certificates, news articles, and letters
from coaches. USCIS, though, denied the School's
petition, concluding that Ms. Savelieva did not satisfy the
statutory requirements for an extraordinary ability visa.
School now sues USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna and his
boss, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen,
bringing claims under the Administrative Procedure Act
(“APA”), the Declaratory Judgment Act, and the
Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). The
School asserts that the agency's denial was arbitrary and
capricious and an abuse of discretion. In response, the
Federal Defendants ask this Court: (1) to dismiss the
School's complaint, in part, for a lack of subject matter
jurisdiction; and (2) to grant summary judgment in their
favor on the APA count. The School also moved for summary
judgment. These opposing motions are now ripe.
the generous arbitrary-and-capricious standard of review,
this Court will not overturn the agency's reasoned
judgment that the School did not satisfy the statutory
requirements for this type of visa. So the Defendants'
motion will be granted, and the Plaintiff's motion will
School is a professional gymnastics training center in Miami,
Florida. Compl. ¶ 8, ECF 1. It sought to employ Ms.
Savelieva, a citizen of Ukraine, as “a rhythmic
gymnastics assistant coach/performer, ” so it submitted
on her behalf an I-129 non-immigrant visa petition for her
classification as an alien of extraordinary ability.
Id. ¶ 17. In support of its petition, the
School submitted various forms of documentation. See
generally CAR 265-331.
receiving the School's petition and materials, USCIS sent
the School a “Request for Evidence, ” seeking
specific additional documentation. See CAR 246-54.
The School then submitted both a written response and
additional evidence. See CAR 18-127. USCIS still
denied the School's petition because it concluded that
the School did not establish “the type of sustained
national or international recognition of accomplishments
necessary[.]” CAR 9. Accordingly, it determined that
Ms. Savelieva was ineligible for classification as an alien
of extraordinary ability. Id. Noting that
“[t]he burden of proof to establish eligibility for a
desired preference rests on the petitioner, ” USCIS
found that the School had fallen short. Id.
School seeks relief in this Court, alleging that USCIS's
decision was arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance
with the law. Compl. ¶ 1. In response, USCIS asks this
Court to dismiss the School's complaint, in part, for a
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and to grant summary
judgment in its favor on the School's APA claim.
Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 1-2, ECF No. 17-1
(“Defs. Mem.”). The School also seeks summary
judgment. Pl. Mem. 1-2, ECF No. 20-1 (“Pl.
Mem.”). The parties' opposing motions are before
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction” and thus
“possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Jurisdiction is thus
a prerequisite that must be satisfied before proceeding to
the merits, and a federal court must dismiss any action over
which it determines that it lacks jurisdiction. Moms
Against Mercury v. FDA, 483 F.3d 824, 826 (D.C. Cir.
2007). The party claiming subject matter jurisdiction has the
burden of establishing it. Arpaio v. Obama, 797 F.3d
11, 19 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
judgment is usually only appropriate if there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
56. But when a court is reviewing an administrative
agency's decision, the standard set out in Federal Civil
Procedure Rule 56 does not apply. Richards v.
I.N.S., 554 F.2d 1173, 1177 (D.C. Cir. 1977). Instead,
as both parties acknowledge, courts review an agency's
decision under the deferential standard provided in the APA.
See Ramaprakash v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 346 F.3d
1121, 1124 (D.C. Cir. 2003).
the APA, “the reviewing court shall . . . hold unlawful
and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found
to be . . . arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or
otherwise not in accordance with law[.]” 5 U.S.C.
§ 706(2)(A). The court asks whether the record contains
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support” the agency's
decision. Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm'n, 383 U.S.
607, 620 (1966).
“will not disturb the decision of an agency that has
‘examined the relevant data and articulated a
satisfactory explanation for its action including a rational
connection between the facts found and the choice
made.'” MD Pharm. Inc. v. Drug Enf't
Admin., 133 F.3d 8, 16 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (quoting
Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm Mut. Auto.
Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983)). Even though a
reviewing court may not “supply a reasoned basis for
the agency's action that the agency itself has not
given[, ]” it may “uphold a decision of less than
ideal clarity if the agency's path may reasonably be
discerned.” Bowman Transp., Inc. v. Arkansas-Best
Freight System, Inc., 419 U.S. 281, 285-86 (1974).
The Court Will Grant USCIS's Motion to Dismiss
first argues that this Court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction over the School's claims under the
Declaratory Judgment Act and the INA. Defs. Mem. 1. USCIS
admits that the APA provides ...