Mayer Brown announced today that Carl Risch, a highly regarded immigration, nationality and visa lawyer, has joined the firm as a partner in the Global Mobility & Migration practice in Washington DC. Mr. Risch is the former Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, where he managed the worldwide visa and passport function for the United States (US) government.

“Carl brings deep and wide-ranging regulatory and enforcement experience developed during almost two decades of service in the US government in the fields of immigration and nationality law and policy,” said Liz Espín Stern, partner and head of the Global Mobility & Migration practice at Mayer Brown. “Our clients will benefit from Carl’s comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of immigration benefits law learned in the field—both in the US and at three embassies—and in senior leadership positions in the three largest immigration adjudicatory agencies.”

Mr. Risch led the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the public face of the Department of State for millions of people around the world, during the worldwide repatriation of American citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He was instrumental in establishing and administering the national interest exception process for travel to the US from COVID-19 effected countries. As assistant secretary, Mr. Risch led US delegations engaged in bilateral talks on consular issues with dozens of countries, focusing on the safety and security of Americans residing abroad and US visa policy. Notably, Mr. Risch played a key role in the release of numerous American prisoners overseas, personally traveling to North Korea in 2018 to help facilitate the release of three hostages. Mr. Risch was also responsible for administering the US intercountry adoption system and was a lead official for the US government on international parental child abduction.

Mr. Risch also served as Deputy Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the nation's immigration court system, which falls under the US Department of Justice. As deputy director, Mr. Risch oversaw the Board of Immigration Appeals, Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, and Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer. Mr. Risch led EOIR’s efforts to comply with President Biden’s executive orders on the immigration system, including conducting a full regulatory and policy review.

“My experience leading large organizations, mentoring staff and developing current immigration policies will enhance my ability to provide relevant and valuable advice to clients navigating the US and international immigration systems,” said Mr. Risch.

Mr. Risch worked for over a decade at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), most recently serving in 2017 as the acting chief of staff for the agency. At USCIS, Mr. Risch gained expertise in all aspects of the US immigration system, including employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa petitions, family-based immigration, asylum and refugee law and naturalization. He worked at the Administrative Appeals Office, focusing primarily on multinational transferee employment-based categories, and served abroad at the USCIS field offices in the Philippines and South Korea. Mr. Risch began his public service as a foreign service officer with the Department of State, serving at the US Consulate General in the Netherlands.

Raj De, the managing partner of Mayer Brown’s Washington DC office, added, “As a senior diplomat at the Department of State with experience negotiating with dozens of foreign governments and collaborating with colleagues around the world, Carl’s advice will be invaluable to our clients in Washington and globally.”

Mr. Risch’s arrival follows in the wake of James Perrott, who joined the firm’s Global Mobility & Migration practice in London.