Between People and the Law that Serves Them

Neha Kuduvalli
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Neha Kuduvalli
How did a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) from India end up as a big-shot Immigration attorney in the U.S.? It was 1981, and Navneet S. Chugh arrived in the U.S., with his "American Dream." Joining a law school, his dream was to get into the corporate sector and provide good-will services to the society. However, ambitious Chugh didn't want to waste his prior education and kept his CPA practice alive. By the time he cleared the bar exam, Chugh had a pile of legal cases on his desk and soon, it was time to put his theoretical practice to reality. Chugh's very first trial won, against all odds to everyone's surprise, including his client's.

Incorporating the Chugh Firm in 1985, Chugh utilized his CPA expertise to initially provide only tax and litigation services. He recalls the unexpected opportunity he got 20 years ago, which successfully turned him into a fulltime immigration attorney: "A CEO of a big client of ours approached me during lunch and asked me 'Hey, how come you don't do our immigration work but do everything else?" I responded saying that I never got into it and don't know how to do it. The CEO was so confident with my work that he wouldn't take no for an answer. And the next day, I received a box full of files with 50 H1s to go." Today, with ten offices and a staff of 250 including 114 lawyers and CPAs, the Chugh Firm not only handles tax, but also legal services for immigration, corporate, mergers & acquisitions, and employment law, family law, real estate, criminal law and various other practice areas.

Unpredictable Challenges
The U.S. immigration landscape has always been a very edgy and competitive field. In the past few years, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services started to enforce stricter policies, making the entire immigration process a cumbersome task for the immigrant community. Although the rules have not changed drastically, the scrutiny under which the rules are reviewed and enforced has increased substantially. One of the reasons for this is to prevent fraudulent practices. For example, although the H-1B Visa rules have not changed much, the interpretation of the rules under the regulations has explicitly changed. This has made it a daunting and challenging task for immigration attorneys to handle their clients' cases well. In order to reduce clients' frustration, as they need to jump through many loops to receive an approval, the attorneys at the Chugh firm observe trends and formulate strategies that eliminate client hardships and reduce cost. They provide clients with a clear understanding of what is being filed on their behalf and why certain personal or confidential documents are being submitted to USCIS, making them aware of the importance of providing complete and accurate information upon initiation of a case.

Uncertain Landscape
The global financial crisis and terrorism concerns have made the U.S. immigration policy more insular and enforcement, more aggressive. More than anything else, uncertainty is currently plaguing the immigration law. The immigration reform bill, sitting with Congress, has made advising clients, who look to attorneys for clarity, a daunting task. "It is one thing to advise clients on how to deal with the law, but it is a whole another beast to counsel clients on how to approach what may or may not be the law soon, without sounding incompetent," says Chugh.

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