United States District Court, District of Columbia
RELX, INC. d/b/a/ LexisNexis USA, and SUBHASREE CHATTERJEE Plaintiffs,
KATHY A. BARAN, In her official Capacity, Director of the California Service Center, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ET AL. Defendants.
G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.
RELX, Inc., d/b/a LexisNexis USA (“LexisNexis”)
and Ms. Subhasree Chatterjee, a Data Analyst for LexisNexis,
bring this action against defendant Kathy Baran, Director of
the California Service Center, U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services (“USCIS”), U.S. Department
of Homeland Security (“DHS”), and other
government officials and entities, under the Administrative
Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701, et seq.
Plaintiffs allege that defendants violated the Administrative
Procedure Act when they denied LexisNexis' H-1B petition
on behalf of Ms. Chatterjee. Pending before the Court are
plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and
defendants' motion to dismiss. Having considered the
submissions of the parties, the administrative record, the
relevant law, and the arguments of the parties during the
motion hearing, the court DENIES
defendants' motion to dismiss and GRANTS
plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.
Statutory and Regulatory Background
H-1B visa program permits employers to temporarily employ
foreign, nonimmigrant workers in specialty occupations.
See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(H). Before obtaining
a visa, an employer must obtain certification from the
Department of Labor that it has filed a labor condition
application in the specific occupational specialty. 8 C.F.R.
§ 214.2(h)(4). The employer must then file an H-1B visa
petition on behalf of the alien worker, which shows that the
proffered position satisfies the statutory and regulatory
requirements. 8 U.S.C. § 1184(c). A specialty occupation
is defined as an occupation that requires “theoretical
and practical application of a body of highly specialized
knowledge” and “attainment of a bachelor's or
higher degree in a specific specialty (or its equivalent) as
a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United
States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1184(i)(1). USCIS regulations
have further defined four criteria, each sufficiently
independent, to determine whether a profession qualifies as a
“specialty occupation.” Under the regulation an
occupation qualifies if:
(1) A baccalaureate or higher degree or its equivalent is
normally the minimum requirement for entry into a particular
(2) The degree requirement is common to the industry in
parallel positions among similar organization or, in the
alternative, an employer may show that its particular
position is so complex or unique that it can be performed
only by an individual with a degree;
(3) The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent
for the position; or
(4) The nature of the specific duties are so specialized and
complex that knowledge required to perform the duties is
usually associated with the attainment of a baccalaureate or
8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A)(1)-(4). The petitioner
bears the burden of proving that his or her occupation falls
within one of the four categories. 8 U.S.C. § 1361.
LexisNexis is a Delaware corporation with its principal place
of business in New York, NY. LexisNexis is an umbrella
corporation with several key markets: Legal, Scientific,
Medical, Risk, and Exhibitions. LexisNexis USA is an
unincorporated division of RELX, Inc. Declaration of Leticia
Andrade (“Andrade Decl.”), ECF No. 4-8 ¶ 3.
LexisNexis is a provider of comprehensive information and
business solutions to professionals in a variety of areas -
legal, risk management, corporate, government, law
enforcement, accounting, and academic. Id.
Subhasree Chatterjee is a citizen of India, currently
residing in Raleigh, NC. Declaration of Subhasree Chatterjee
(“Chatterjee Decl.”), ECF No. 4-9 ¶ 2. Ms.
Chatterjee holds a Master of Science in Business
Administration, with a focus on Business Analytics, from the
University of Cincinnati, located in Ohio, USA.
Administrative Record (“AR”), ECF No. 7-4 34-35.
Prior to earning her Masters degree and her work for
LexisNexis in 2017, Ms. Chatterjee earned a Bachelor of
Technology degree in Computer Science and Engineering from
West Bengal University of Technology in Kolkata, India.
Chatterjee Decl., ECF No. 4-8 ¶ 7. Ms. Chatterjee also
has extensive practical experience in data analytics from
four years of working for Infosys in Pune, India and one year
working in data analytics for Evalueserve Inc. in Raleigh, NC
in the field of Analytics Delivery after earning her
undergraduate degree. Chatterjee Decl., ECF No. 4-8 ¶ 7;
Andrade Decl., ECF No. 4-9 ¶ 9.
Chatterjee is currently employed by LexisNexis and works as a
Data Analyst in LexisNexis's engineering Center for
Excellence. Andrade Decl. No. 4-9 ¶ 8. The LexisNexis
Data Analyst position consists of several technical
responsibilities. These responsibilities include
“analyzing, investigating, and hypothesizing data to
effectively communicate with internal and external customers,
management and functional areas by presenting problem
resolution, product information . . . work with Designers and
Researchers, embedded in product development teams, to help
them understand customer behavior . . . analyz[ing],
investigat[ing], negotiat[ing] and resolv[ing] problems to
help inform product design decisions.” AR 32.
Chatterjee is currently in the United States on a F-1 student
visa with STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training) that expires
on August 3, 2019, AR 37-45, after which she will not be
permitted to work in the United States. Ms. Chatterjee is the
subject of the H-1B petition LexisNexis filed and she is
directly impacted by the agency decision denying her an H-1B
April 12, 2018, LexisNexis filed a Petition for a
Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, on behalf of Ms. Chatterjee,
a citizen of India. AR 86. LexisNexis petitioned to classify
Ms. Chatterjee in H-1B status so that she could continue to
work for LexisNexis as a Data Analyst. Id. In
support of its petition, LexisNexis supplied a Labor
Condition Application (“LCA”) (Case Number
I-200-18060-605447), certified by the U.S. Department of
Labor for the validity period of September 2, 2018 through
September 1, 2021, AR 26-31; a letter from Leticia Andrade,
Immigration Compliance Specialist, AR 32-33; background
information about LexisNexis, id.; copies of Ms.
Chatterjee's Master's degree from the University of
Cincinnati and official transcript, AR 34-35; a copy of her
F-1 student visa and work authorization, AR 36-45; and a copy
of the biographic page of Ms. Chatterjee's unexpired
passport, AR 48-49.
government responded to the petition with a “Request
For Evidence” (“RFE”) related to whether
the Data Analyst position was a specialty occupation. AR
52-53. Among the categories of information requested were (1)
“A detailed statement to explain the beneficiary's
proposed duties and responsibilities; indicate the percentage
of time devoted to each duty; and state the educational
requirements for these duties”; (2) “Job postings
or advertisements showing a degree requirement is common to
the industry in parallel positions among similar
organizations”; and (3) expert opinions supported by
“[t]he writer's qualifications as an expert; [h]ow
the conclusions were reached; and [t]he basis for the
conclusions supported by copies or citations of any materials
used.” AR 52.
18, 2018, LexisNexis responded to defendants' RFE with
(a) a supplemental letter from Leticia Andrade, Immigration
Compliance Specialist, AR 55-57; (b) an organizational chart,
AR 58; (c) six job announcements for Data Analyst positions,
from six different employers, each showing that the Data
Analyst positions required at least a Bachelor's degree
in STEMfields such as business analytics, statistics,
mathematics, economics or operations research, AR 59-64; and
(d) an expert opinion from Dr. Gerhard Steinke, Professor of
Management and Information Systems at Seattle Pacific
University, AR 65-68. Through its June 2018 submission,
LexisNexis provided evidence on only three out of the four 8
C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A) grounds for
September 13, 2018, the Government denied the petition filed
by LexisNexis on behalf of Ms. Chatterjee. AR 86-94. The
government stated that LexisNexis had not shown that the
position is a specialty occupation. Id. LexisNexis
moved for reconsideration, AR 97, and the government granted
the motion for reconsideration on January 17, 2019. Six days
later, the government issued a final decision denying the
petition for the same reasons as the initial denial. AR 1-7.
3, 2019, plaintiffs filed suit seeking relief under the APA.
See Compl., ECF No. 1. The Court placed this matter
on an expedited briefing and hearing schedule - consolidating
the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction with a
decision on the merits - in light of the fact that Ms.
Chatterjee's current status expires on August 3, 2019.
See Minute Order dated July 12, 2019. The parties
were instructed to file cross-motions for summary judgment
with the plaintiffs' motion due on July 22, 2019. On July
18, 2019, shortly before the plaintiffs filed their opening
motion, defendants sua sponte reopened Ms.