D.C. Federal Court Finds USCIS’s Decision Arbitrary and Capricious

According to the Administrative Procedure Act, a court may review a final agency action to determine whether it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). On February 19, 2020, in the case of Barchart.com v. Koumans, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia exercised this power by reviewing USCIS’s decision to deny the H-1B visa petition for a “Market Analysis Representative.”

USCIS determined that Plaintiff, Barchart.com, failed to show why the position was a specialty occupation requiring a bachelor’s degree. This determination follows the Plaintiff filing an H-1B petition with USCIS, to hire a prospective employee, who held a bachelor’s degree in finance. The employer submitted a letter in support of the petition, detailing the position and the employee’s qualifications, during the initial filing. Additionally, in a Request for Evidence (RFE) Response, the employer submitted a declaration from Ethan Robinson, Senior Program Manager of the company, which detailed the job duties, the job’s significance to the company, and why a finance degree is necessary.

Through the power of 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A) the District Court decided to vacate and remand the agency’s decision because USCIS lacked to consider the evidence submitted in the RFE Response, mainly the Robinson Declaration. In 463 U.S. 29, 43 the court states, “Normally, an agency rule would be arbitrary and capricious if the agency has relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.” In denying the Petition, USCIS faulted Barchart.com for failing to show the position required a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, nowhere in reaching this decision did USCIS consider the Robinson Declaration. According to 613 F.3d at 194 “[A]n agency’s refusal to consider evidence bearing on the issue before it constitutes arbitrary agency action within the meaning of [5 U.S.C.] § 706.” By failing to consider the Robinson Declaration, as evidence bearing on the issue, USCIS constituted arbitrary and capricious action resulting in the Court’s ruling to vacate and remand the H-1B denial.

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