Hundreds of Automotive Designers to Redesign American Cars

General Motors had a need for hundreds of automotive designers to redesign its entire automotive fleet. Since these designers would only be needed for a defined period of time, and since all or virtually all U.S. automotive designers were employed and not interested in leaving their present employer for a temporary position, GM looked to automotive contractors in foreign countries.

Various competitive automotive contractors attempted to supply General Motors through visas such as B-1, H-1B, and H-2B, but failed. Our firm developed a strategy of having a British automotive contractor make a small investment in the United States (approximately $15,000) in order to open a U.S. office to serve as a liaison with the hundreds of automotive designers that it would be supplying to GM. Based upon this investment, the company applied for E-2 Treaty Investor registration which would enable its British employees to come to the U.S. with E-2 essential skill visas. The visas were approved following consultations at the highest levels of the Visa Office and with the Consul General in London.

Despite the issuance of the visas, the Immigration and Naturalization Service denied entry to the automotive designers with E-2 visas based upon its belief that the investment was too small and that E-2 visas could not be used to bring in large numbers of automotive designers to work at the location of the U.S. company. We litigated the case before the Chief Immigration Judge with support from the Department of State. The Chief Immigration Judge ruled that the visas were properly issued and that the Immigration and Naturalization Service improperly denied entry to the automotive designers. Following appeal by INS, the Board of Immigration Appeals, in a precedent decision known as Matter of Walsh and Pollard, ruled that E-2 visas may be properly issued despite the small amount of the investment, where the investment is sufficient to create a viable enterprise in the United States. The Board of Immigration Appeals also ruled that the automotive designers qualified as essential skill E-2 employees. The automotive designers came to the U.S. and completed GM’s redesign initiative. This decision remains codified by name in the Foreign Affairs Manual of the Department of State.