Laura Foote Reiff’s combined passion for humanitarian efforts and legal rigor has seen her build a world-renowned immigration practice. A shareholder at international firm Greenberg Traurig, in 1999 she co-founded the firm’s Business and Immigration Compliance group and has co-led the group since. Reiff is also the Co-Managing Shareholder of the firm’s Northern Virginia Office and co-chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s International Employment, Immigration & Workforce Strategies group. She has headed up high-pressure immigration negotiations and advised companies in a wide range of compliance and legislative issues. An advisor to businesses throughout the immigration process, she most frequently assists corporations in Form I-9 eligibility employment verification matters and advises in efforts to minimize exposure and increase compliance in audits and reviews.
Reiff also assists businesses in creating indirect jobs through “Regional Centers,” which can lead to permanent residence through the EB-5 investment program. The EB-5 program is a topical immigration subject due to recent legislation restructuring the program, and Reiff has long been an advocate in the area: She co-founded the EB-5 Investment Coalition back in 2014. In fact, the only piece of immigration legislation passed in 2022 was the EB-5 Reform Act.
Though her practice focuses on business-centric immigration, public interest matters are at the heart of Reiff’s passion for immigration law. Greenberg Traurig is well-known for their pro bono efforts, and the business immigration team is no exception. When hot-button international affairs lead to the need for asylum seekers or foreign nationals to relocate or remain in the U.S., Reiff has a long track record of helping people find refuge. In 1992, she represented the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars, who were students residing in the U.S. at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Recently, with war ravaging both Ukraine and Afghanistan, Reiff’s pro bono team has assisted in relocating citizens from those countries to the U.S.
Reiff continues to serve the business immigration field outside of the firm, as well. She has served on several boards, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the America is Better Board and the National Immigration Forum.
Lawdragon: The breadth of your practice is impressive. Tell me about the range of work you and the rest of the Business and Immigration Compliance group at the firm are involved in.
Laura Reiff: I have more than 32 years of experience representing businesses and organizations in the business immigration and compliance field. I am a business immigration advocate and have long chaired and advocated for prominent business immigration coalitions.
Our team provides both inbound and outbound immigration services as well as legislative and agency advocacy, including working with Capitol Hill policymakers to shape immigration laws and policies.
We have extensive experience advising multinational corporations on how to minimize exposure and liability regarding I-9 employment eligibility verification matters, E-Verify compliance, FAR E-Verify compliance, state compliance and the IMAGE program, as well as counseling companies of various sizes in connection with Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance requirements stemming from contractual agreements.
We also litigate in federal court to ensure proper agency interpretation and action. These are usually challenges pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act.
This combination of business immigration and humanitarian legislative work really solidified my interest developing both areas of the work at a firm.
LD: How did you first become interested in immigration law?
LR: Fighting for immigration reform and essential worker legislation, opposing “enforcement-only” legislation, has been my passion since my time at the George Washington University Law School. While there, I worked through the Immigration Clinic to understand immigration policy issues. I participated in externships with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and with the Central American Refugee Center.
My first immigration experience in a law firm was following my first year at GW. I was able to work on business immigration issues while also advocating for legislation to protect pro-democracy Chinese students in the U.S. following the Tiananmen Square massacre. This combination of business immigration and humanitarian legislative work really solidified my interest developing both areas of the work at a firm.
LD: What are some aspects about this work that you find professionally satisfying? What keeps you excited about it?
LR: The passage of immigration legislation in March of 2022 to completely overhaul the EB-5 immigrant investor program was a particularly satisfying. Immigration legislative changes are virtually impossible to pass, yet we were able to accomplish this change despite the negative political headwinds. It was also particularly satisfying to challenge the agency interpretation of the new law passed in March and have a federal judge force the agency to more appropriately interpret the law.
LD: That must have been fulfilling. What are other notable moments in your career?
LR: The passage of the Chinese Student Protection Act in 1992 was a very challenging and interesting effort. We represented the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars inside the U.S. at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and they did not want to be returned to China. Seventy thousand of these students were protected from return and were able to become U.S. permanent residents.
LD: That’s incredible. Are there any trends you are seeing in your practice in terms of the types of matters keeping you busy these days?
LR: Our archaic immigration laws are forcing practitioners to come up with creative ways to accomplish client’s goals. We strategize with our clients on unique strategies to fill their workforce needs. We also work on smaller and larger legislative fixes that, if enacted by Congress, would serve our client’s needs.
Seventy thousand of these students were protected from return and were able to become U.S. permanent residents.
LD: Can you tell me about any recent matters specifically?
LR: Our pro bono team at the firm has handled hundreds of Afghan Humanitarian Parole applications in an effort to facilitate the exit of vulnerable citizens from the collapse of the U.S. backed government in Afghanistan. We have also overseen a significant pro bono effort to assist those Ukrainians seeking to leave the war-torn country.
LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?
LR: I think I would have gone into the diplomatic core and worked for the State Department.