Cyrus Mehta is “very well respected", and exalted as "the smartest immigration attorney out there".
Cyrus D Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, is the founder and managing partner of Cyrus D Mehta & Partners, PLLC representing corporations and individuals in diverse immigration matters. He also advises lawyers on ethical issues. Based on 25 plus years of experience in immigration law, Mr Mehta is able to comprehend all kinds of problems and provide effective, ethical and strategic solutions to his clients. He is also an adjunct professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and is a prolific writer, blogger and speaker on contemporary immigration law topics. Mr Mehta is the 2018 recipient of AILA’s Edith Lowenstein award for advancing the practice of immigration law.
What motivated you to pursue a legal career?
I have always wanted to help people while growing up, and I thought I would achieve this by becoming a lawyer or a doctor. I ended up as an immigration lawyer, and am glad that I did, as I have been able to help many while also doing my part in ensuring that the United States continues to embrace immigrants.
How has the corporate immigration market evolved since you began practising?
Corporate immigration law has become extremely sophisticated over the years. It requires intimate knowledge of not just the law but also many regulations and fast-changing policies. Since companies truly value highly skilled foreign national employees, the stakes are high for lawyers to develop the optimum strategy for their clients in a challenging immigration environment. In recent years, corporate immigration has also encompassed federal court litigation, as an effective way to reverse an erroneous denial is to seek review in federal court.
What qualities make for a successful corporate immigration lawyer?
There is a whole body of administrative and judicial decisions, including governmental policies, around each visa classification. An immigration lawyer must be most knowledgeable in order to marshal the most effective and creative arguments to win an approval. In addition, immigration lawyers must be completely dedicated to the case, must work very hard, and must also be able to produce high-quality work within strict timeframes.
What effect do you think technology, such as artificial intelligence, will have on corporate immigration practice over the next few years?
Technology, including AI, is making a big impact on immigration practice. Even until now, corporate immigration lawyers have been wedded to sophisticated case management systems, but AI will change the landscape substantially as it will perform tasks better than lawyers. The jury is still out on whether technology will completely substitute a lawyer’s skill or only aid it. Notwithstanding the ability of technology taking over many human tasks, lawyers must still be mindful of the ethical rules requiring competence, diligence, confidentiality, unauthorised practice of law and conflicts of interest, to name a few.
What short and long-term effects do you see covid-19 having on your practice?
Covid-19 has changed the way immigration lawyers practise law, and they have quickly learned how to work remotely and conduct client meetings through video conferencing. Many forms, supporting letters, and briefs can be prepared remotely. Some work performed by administrative staff may still have to be performed at the office, such as collecting mail and printing and dispatching voluminous paper submissions to USCIS. USCIS still requires paper submissions, and if USCIS goes completely electronic, it will be even easier to work remotely. Immigration lawyers may be able to expand a law firm by hiring personnel without needing to also expand the physical space. Even after covid-19, I predict that lawyers will continue to work from both the office and remotely. However, USCIS will still require in-person interviews and so lawyers will need to accompany clients for those appointments.
What are your main priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?
I would like the firm to continue to expand in what it does today, which is providing high-quality representation to clients in complex immigration matters. Firms should always maintain a reputation for possessing deep knowledge of immigration law that will stand out among its competitors. I would like to nurture talented lawyers who will become leaders in the field, find innovative ways to provide excellent legal services and grow the firm. We should not grow for the sake of growth but grow in order to meet the needs of clients who will value our unique legal services in extremely complex areas of immigration law.
Is there any advice you would give to younger lawyers hoping to one day be in your position?
You should realise early on whether you have a passion for immigration law and helping people. If you find it, then you will not mind working very hard and going beyond the call of duty for the client in an increasingly difficult and challenging environment. Try to stand out by being unique. It can either be specialising in a niche within corporate immigration law, such as employer compliance, or by aspiring to become a thought leader through speaking, writing, tweeting or bar association activities. Also be prepared to embrace cutting-edge technology and always be ready to innovate and reinvent yourself.
“Cyrus’ firm is one of the key immigration law practices in the US, and he himself has held numerous service positions that attest to his prominence in the field”
“He is a prolific writer on immigration strategy and policy, he is the best on ethics – he always makes himself available to others”
Cyrus D Mehta is the managing partner of Cyrus D Mehta & Partners PLLC in New York City. Mr Mehta represents corporations and individuals from around the world in a variety of immigration matters, including business, employment, entrepreneur and investor immigration and ethics. Based on over 25 years of experience in immigration law, he is able to comprehend all kinds of problems and provide effective, ethical and strategic solutions to his clients.
Mr Mehta is a member of AILA’s administrative litigation task force; AILA’s ethics committee and its former chair; AILA's FOIA committee; special counsel on immigration matters to the departmental disciplinary committee, appellate division, first department, New York; board member of Volunteers for Legal Services and board member of New York Immigration Coalition. Mr Mehta is the former chair of the board of trustees of the American Immigration Council and former chair of the committee on immigration and nationality law of the New York City Bar Association.
He is a frequent speaker and writer on various immigration-related issues, including on ethics, and is also an adjunct professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, where he teaches a course entitled ‘Immigration and Work’. Mr Mehta received the AILA 2018 Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award for advancing the practice of immigration law and the AILA 2011 Michael Maggio Memorial Award for his outstanding efforts in providing pro bono representation in the immigration field. He has also received two AILA Presidential Commendations in 2010, 2016 and 2020.
Mr Mehta graduated with a BA degree from St Xavier's College, Bombay University, and subsequently obtained law degrees from Cambridge University, England (MA in Law), and Columbia Law School, New York (LLM). In his spare time, Mr Mehta plays the violin.