Brazilian Chef’s Skills Aren’t Visa-Worthy

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A gaucho chef recruited by a Dallas-based chain of Brazilian steakhouses was properly denied a special work visa because he lacks “specialized knowledge,” a federal judge ruled.
     Dallas-based Fogo de Chao – which owns a chain of churrascarias, or Brazilian steakhouses – sued the federal government in 2010 after its L-1B visa application for chef Rones Gasperetto was denied.
     Gasperetto is a Brazilian gaucho chef with more than two years’ experience as a churrasquiero in Fogo’s steakhouses in Brazil, according to the steakhouse chain. Fogo de Chao owns and operates six churrascarias in Brazil and 16 in the United States, with its first U.S. location opening in Dallas in 1997.
     It touts its restaurants being staffed by genuine Brazilian gaucho chefs, also known as churrasqueiros, who grew up specializing in the traditional method of preparing and serving meat.
     Fogo de Chao said its chefs begin their careers by working for at least two years in one of their Brazilian locations and completing a training program. Certain L-1B visa candidates are then selected for transfer to Fogo de Chao’s U.S. steakhouses.
     The L-1B visa allows American employers to hire foreign workers with specialized skill sets.
     To qualify, Fogo de Chao had to include with Gasperetto’s visa petition evidence that he would be working in a “specialized knowledge capacity.”
     The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied the application due to insufficient evidence that Gasperetto was eligible for transfer based on specialized knowledge. The agency referred his case to the Administrative Appeals Office, which similarly concluded that Gasperetto possessed a “general cultural knowledge” rather than the specialized knowledge required for an L-1B visa.
     U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton agreed and granted the government’s motion for summary judgment, finding no violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act or the Administrative Procedures Act.
     “The court finds that the Administrative Appeals Office’s interpretation of the term ‘specialized knowledge,’ as used in the Gasparetto petition, is reasonable,” Walton wrote.
     Walton acknowledged that Congress likely intended to broaden the visa category based on legislative history, but said “it does not similarly indicate that the inclusion of a definition of specialized knowledge was intended as part of that broadening effort.”
     He found it reasonable for the USCIS to rely on dictionary definitions, and for the appeals office to rely on the agency’s interpretation.
     “[T]he evidence before the Administrative Appeals Office concerning the Gasperetto petition was insufficient for the office to find that Mr. Gasperetto was eligible for an L-1B visa,” Walton concluded.
     He disagreed with Fogo de Chao’s claim that the government had illegally required it to show that Gasperetto had skills that set him apart from its other chefs.
     Walton noted that USCIS officers were told to “ensure that the knowledge possessed by the beneficiary is not general knowledge held commonly throughout the industry but that it is truly specialized.”
     “Undoubtedly, other churrasqueiro chefs employed by Fogo are members of the same industry, and so it follows that a comparison to others in Fogo’s workforce was reasonable,” Walton wrote.
     He said the appeals office rejected Gasperetto’s visa “because it was unclear from the record that he had completed the required training program, and because Fogo failed to clarify the nature of Mr. Gasperetto’s foreign position.”

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