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Buffalo Sabres Sue Agency Over Trainer’s Green-Card Denial

May 19, 2020, 3:28 PM

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wrongly denied a request by Buffalo’s National Hockey League franchise to sponsor a team physician for a green card based on his extraordinary ability, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York alleges.

The complaint filed by Hockey Western New York LLC, owner of the Buffalo Sabres, says the agency arbitrarily denied its petition on behalf of British doctor Edward Anthony Gannon for an EB-1 visa, which would grant lawful permanent residence. Gannon is currently employed by the Sabres under temporary nonimmigrant P-1S status as the team’s head strength and conditioning coach.

Visa petitions for high-skilled foreign nationals have received increased scrutiny under the Trump administration. While USCIS has largely targeted those efforts at the H-1B specialty occupation program, other visa categories required to prove specialty skills have also been affected.

Hockey Western New York said the denial of Gannon’s I-140 petition interferes with the Buffalo Sabres’ “ability to successfully conduct its operations in the U.S.,” and potentially subjects them to “substantial financial harm and disruption in developing their athletes if Dr. Gannon needs to depart the U.S.”

USCIS, in its denial, said the team’s petition failed to demonstrate that Gannon had risen to the top of his field, a requirement of granting an EB-1 visa for extraordinary ability. But Hockey Western New York, in its complaint, said the agency ignored evidence cited in the petition, including Gannon’s “groundbreaking and impactful research,” which has been published in peer reviewed journals, and his care for elite athletes on the team.

Causes of action: Violation of the Administrative Procedure Act

Relief: Declaratory relief; attorneys’ fees; and other relief deemed necessary by the court.

Response: USCIS spokesman said agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Attorneys: Mark C. Davis, Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP

The case is Gannon v. USCIS, W.D.N.Y., No. 1:20-cv-00594, complaint 5/19/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com; John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com

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