Back to Top skip to main content
GandS U.S. Immigration Logo
Apr 1, 2020

Green & Spiegel Attorneys Earn Approval of H-1B in Federal Court Hospitality Management is a “Specialty Occupation”

Stephen Antwine

A Rhode Island restaurant group challenged a USCIS denial and won H-1B “specialty occupation” status for its General Operations Manager, an Indian national, in federal court. 

On March 26, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Mary McElroy sitting in the District of Rhode Island issued a decision granting summary judgment in favor of a restaurant group, India House, Inc., and its employee Santosh Shanbhag. Santosh Shanbhag was granted H-1B status in a “specialty occupation” after being previously denied by USCIS. Leveraging support from its Providence office, attorneys for Green & Spiegel, based in Philadelphia, litigated the case on behalf of India House and Mr. Shanbhag. 

Mr. Shanbhag sought “specialty occupation” classification as a “General and Operations Manager” for India House, Inc. After a 2018 denial by USCIS and a 2019 denial on appeal by the Administrative Appeals Office, the parties sued USCIS and sought relief in federal court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. 

Stephen Antwine, who leads the Federal Litigation Practice at Green & Spiegel, and argued the case, hopes the decision will encourage further litigation in H-1B cases. “USCIS decisions are subject to federal court review, and it is an avenue for relief that is often overlooked,” according to Antwine. Although Green & Spiegel did not file the original H-1B petitions, Antwine said, “We felt that the evidence presented in the administrative record formed a strong basis to challenge the initial denial in federal court.” 

District Judge McElroy granted summary judgment for India House, Inc. after briefing and oral argument. Most importantly, the Court concluded that “Hospitality Management” was a “specialty occupation” for the purposes of H-1B classification. Judge McElroy determined that Mr. Shanbhag’s educational background, including a degree in hospitality management from Johnson & Wales University, made him eminently qualified for the position of General Operations Manager of the restaurant group. She ruled that hospitality management was not a general degree, and based the decision on the course of study in which Mr. Shanbhag had engaged, including “food, food safety, food service, food culture, and franchising.” 

Moreover, the Court saw through the mischaracterization of the business entity itself by USCIS which labeled it simply “a restaurant started in 1987.” In fact, the evidence clearly established that it was a restaurant group consisting of four restaurants and an expansive catering company. Judge McElroy concluded that the government’s approval of two prior H-1B petitions was instructive, and held that the government could not justify its arbitrary denial for a more senior position. In making the decision, she referenced increasing denial rates for H-1B cases, despite no changes in the actual law or any underlying applicable policy memoranda. 

Jonathan Grode, Green & Spiegel’s U.S. Practice Director, lauded the decision of the Court: “This decision shows that the USCIS cannot arbitrarily dictate adjudication standards based on the whims of the federal administration. We applaud the Court for its concise and well-reasoned decision as well as swift action through summary judgment. The litigation team at Green and Spiegel went above and beyond for our client and I am proud of this tremendous team effort.” 

Case Citation: India House, Inc. v. McAleenan, et. al, 1:19CV00296, (D.R.I2020). 

ABOUT: Green and Spiegel, LLC is a law firm specializing in North American immigration law. The U.S. headquarters is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with additional offices in Colorado, Ohio, and Rhode Island. From large corporate employee transfers to difficult family sponsorships and humanitarian applications for permanent residence, Green and Spiegel can help. With top legal minds in corporate employee transfers, removal/deportation, immigrant investment, family immigration, immigration compliance, and resolving inadmissibility issues, the professionals at Green and Spiegel have been recognized as industry leaders.

Related Team

Stephen Antwine

Stephen Antwine

215-395-8959

215-395-8959

email Stephen

Philadelphia (US Headquarters)

Full Biography

Stephen Antwine

Recent Blogs

Apr 21, 2021

DHS Has Announced an Additional 22,000 Visas for the H-2B Visa Program

After considerable pressure from small business owners and H-2B industry supporters, DHS has agreed to release an additional 22,000 H-2B visas, with 6,000 of those visas being earmarked for workers from Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). According to DHS, employers wishing to obtain workers through this visa release will have to conduct additional advertising, and explain how their businesses will suffer without these workers. Learn more in this blog.

Apr 13, 2021

F-1 Students Seeking Optional Practical Training Can Now File Form I-765 Online

On April 12. 2021 USCIS announced that F-1 students can now file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization online when applying for Pre-Completion OPT, Post-Completion OPT, or a 24-month OPT STEM extension. Learn more in this blog.

Apr 07, 2021

H, L, J-Visa Holders No Longer Suspended from Entry into the United States but Most Noncitizens Remain Subject to Travel Restrictions

Presidential Proclamation 10052, suspending H-1B, H-2B, J and L admissions, expired March 31, 2021. Ongoing 2019 novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) public health travel restrictions remain in place requiring travelers from certain areas to qualify for national interest exceptions. U.S. Consulates are still operating at reduced levels and will have to work through backlogs as the pandemic ends. Learn more in this blog.