With over 35 years of experience practicing immigration law, Maria Fernanda Gandarez has extensive knowledge of U.S. and international visa requirements. A partner and member of Pryor Cashman’s Immigration Group, Maria heads up the firm’s global mobility practice and counsels multinational corporate clients across various industries to help them to achieve their worldwide talent objectives.
Highly committed to her “white-glove,” high-touch client service, Maria and her team have consistently been recognized as a premier immigration attorney by Chambers, Legal 500, and Super Lawyers, and was named among the Best Women Lawyers in New York City by Crain’s New York Business. Chambers USA 2021 noted Maria's "deep experience in extraordinary ability petitions," with one client enthusing, "[s]he is very thorough, responsive, capable, always on top of things and good at keeping us informed."
Over the last decade, Maria has focused her practice on global mobility, assisting her multinational clients in U.S. and international immigration matters. This broad skillset includes acquiring temporary employment visas and permanent residence in over 185 countries; securing passports; getting documents legalized and/or apostilled in numerous jurisdictions; assist with obtaining police records from various countries; readvising clients on employer sanctions, discrimination, and employment verification procedures; and, with local team assistance, even counseling clients on the tax and general labor consequences of mergers & acquisitions (M&A), complex employee relocations, and other corporate restructurings around the globe.
In addition to her global mobility expertise, Maria heads up the firm’s consular practice which facilitates visa processing worldwide, including staying up-to-date on COVID-related consular closings, visa appointment availability, requests for expedited appointments, travel exemptions, and quarantine requirements. Well-versed in foreign governmental requirements and permanent establishment, Maria utilizes a vast global network of partners in over 185 countries to bring about swift resolutions for her clients. Her years of experience in each of these jurisdictions enables her to understand the culture, process and procedures of these foreign entities, and she knows how, when and what to deliver to avoid the unnecessary back and forth that is so common when managing global mobility needs for large foreign multinationals.
Maria regularly works with a diverse client base and delivers a full range of immigration expertise to national and multinational corporate and individual clients across a broad spectrum of industries, including aviation, education, financial services, technology, pharmaceutical, fashion, food, and entertainment. Her most recent experience includes representing:
A leading global company that provides ingredients found in foods, beverages, personal care items, pharmaceuticals, and many other products used worldwide, which was designated as an essential service provider in numerous countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maria and her team assisted three critical employees relocating from Australia to various locations in North America to ensure that the company could optimize their delivery of critical goods. After approval and the submission of representations to the Australian government for an exit ban exemption based on employment in critical infrastructure (food industry), all three were approved.
The leading importer of upscale beers in the U.S. in immigration matters, including strategic long- and short-term planning to meet unique workforce requirements and providing advice related to immigration issues associated with changing corporate structures and COVID-related international issues (including but not limited to travel, global visa issuance challenges, and consular processing advice.)
A large, multinational information technology (IT) provider based in the U.K. with their inbound U.S. immigration matters following the recent acquisition of another U.S.-based company. With their U.S. staffing and customer base that doubled overnight, and in the midst of COVID-19, travel restrictions, embassy closures, and presidential proclamations occurring daily, efficient integration of the two companies was a critical yet significant undertaking. Maria quickly developed a strategy to expand the client’s range of visa options and set an aggressive program of National Interest Exemptions to enable the client to continue operating at maximum capacity.
A privately-held, full-service provider of electronic and physical security services in conjunction with an employee who entered the U.S. from Central America who secured TPS status following his B-1/B-2 visa expiration. Despite the challenges under the current immigration climate and his immigration status, Maria’s team secured H-1B status after a challenging request for evidence (RFE). Her group then quickly filed a PERM application and I-140 for him. Despite various challenges, we were able to obtain a green card interview and consideration for the employee. This is an ongoing matter.
A world-renowned hairdresser and entrepreneur for an O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa regarding the individual’s new business venture - providing premier hair care and beauty products to a broader audience in the United States. The business is backed by several celebrity angel investors, who were eager to have the client come to the U.S. as soon as possible. After a complex request for evidence during the pandemic, Maria and her team secured approval and the visa was issued.
A leading author in advice pertaining to resident location advice, as the individual wanted to be based in Europe while writing a current series of books about the continent. Due to a looming publication date, this issue needed to be settled promptly, so Maria identified the Global Talent Visa in the U.K. in order to provide the client with the flexibility to access Europe quickly. The first stage of the application, an endorsement from the Arts Council in the U.K., required reviewing the client’s extensive body of work, including numerous reviews and awards in multiple languages, whittling it down to the best 10 items representing the high-level international recognition of their work. Based on the submission, the client received the Arts Council Endorsement within two weeks (as compared to the usual months-long timeline) and is currently approved to travel to the U.K. at their leisure.
A Trusted Expert
Maria has led various panel discussions and frequently speaks about current global immigration law topics at various industry events and organizations, including the New York State Bar Association International Section, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) Fordham Law School, among others.
Pro Bono and Community
A strong supporter of pro bono service, Maria works with community outreach programs and churches to aid the immigrant community. Maria also provides pro-bono legal services to a global not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the development of safe and accessible HIV vaccines for use throughout the world.
Rutgers University School of Law (J.D., 1988)
Hood College (B.A., 1985)
Recognized as a top immigration attorney by Chambers USA (2015-21)
Named a leading immigration attorney by The Legal 500 US (2012-21)
Named to the Super Lawyers – New York Metro list in immigration law (2011-21)
Named among the top 100 "Leading Women Lawyers in New York City" by Crain's (2018)
District of Columbia
American Immigration Lawyers Association
New York State Bar Association
New Jersey State Bar Association (Immigration Law Section)
District of Columbia Bar Association
Portuguese-American Chamber of Commerce (Member; Board of Directors)
British-American Chamber of Commerce
European American Chamber of Commerce
National Association of Professional Women ("NAPW")
National Employment Law Council ("NELC")
Society for Human Resource Management ("SHRM")
National Association for Women Lawyers ("NAWLS")