Indian Wins Case In US Over H1B Visa Denial! US Govt, USCIS Suffers A Big Defeat

Three-judge panel US court rules in favour of Indian IT employee, against the USCIS.
Three-judge panel US court rules in favour of Indian IT employee, against the USCIS.

There have been a series of positive wins in favour of H-1B visa petitioners and citizens in US courts, since some time now.

Recently, there has been another such win for a US technology based company, Innova Solutions, that wanted to hire an Indian employee in the specialty occupation of Computer Programmer and filed an H-1B petition against the US government body USCIS, on his behalf.

In the Innova Solutions, Inc. v. Baran case, Judge John B Owens, of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared the verdict in favour of the Indian H-1B visa petitioner on December 16, 2020, filed by Innova Solutions.

Let’s discuss the case in detail.

The ‘Innova Solutions, Inc. v. Baran’ Case

In 2018, the technology company Innova Solutions filed an H-1B petition against the USCIS on behalf of an Indian employee it wanted to hire, under the specialty occupation of Computer Programmer.

Innova filed this lawsuit in the Northern District Court of California in 2018.

The tech company filed an H-1B petition for the Indian citizen Dilip Dodda, for the ‘Programmer Analyst’ position between August 2017 and October 2020.

As Dodda holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical & Electronics Engineering, the USCIS denied the petition in 2017 stating that Innova failed to show that the position of Computer Programmer is a specialty occupation, as per the DOL’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH).

The USCIS heavily relies on the Department of Labour’s OOH, according to which most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree, thus implying that some individuals employed as computer programmers do not have bachelor’s degrees.

This means as per OOH, a computer programmer position requires either a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree in any computer-related field.

The USCIS interpretation was that if an associate degree is enough for the position, it cannot be a specialty occupation. Since programmer analyst falls under the computer programmer category, it cannot be a specialty occupation requiring H-1B.

Innova Loses in 2018 Cali District Court

According to a blog post by the immigration expert Cyrus Mehta,

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard the case in 2018, and held that the position of Programming Analyst, categorized under the OOH’s Computer Programmer classification did not qualify as a specialty occupation because the OOH’s description for Computer Programmer stated only that “most” Computer Programmers have a bachelor’s degree but “some employers hire workers with an associate’s degree”.

SO, even though Innova Solutions filed a lawsuit on grounds that the USCIS acted “arbitrarily and capriciously and abused its discretion”, the court  ruled in favour of the USCIS.

Innova Solutions Finally Win in 2020

In the order dated 2019, the court ruled that “Innova has not shown that USCIS’s denial of its petition was arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.”

Innova further appealed for the same in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, thereby leading to a ruling in its favour on 16th Dec, 2020, by the three judge panel.

The Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to USCIS, and remanded the case, holding the USCIS’ denial of the visa was arbitrary and capricious.

The court first examined the OOH language, holding that USCIS’s denial of the petition on this basis was arbitrary and capricious.

The court also held that USCIS’s denial was arbitrary and capricious because it mischaracterized the language in the OOH.

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