After Covington & Burling helped Australians secure greater access to the U.S. workplace in 2005, South Korea has called on the firm to do the same for its citizens.
The South Korean embassy in Washington has hired Covington to develop a professional visa legislative proposal, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act documents the firm filed last week with the U.S. Justice Department. Covington also will create "corresponding justifications for the legislation based on the unique attributes of the U.S.-Korea economic partnership, as evidenced in the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement," the paperwork says. The embassy and Covington entered into the $90,000 contract on November 14, less than a year after the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement went into effect.
"They're our partners trying to give us advice and help us with this initiative," which is still under development, said Ilbum Kim, first secretary of the embassy's economic section.
Under the visa arrangement, 10,500 Australians each year can work temporarily in the United States. In 2004, according to former Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile, only 900 Australians were successful in obtaining the standard two-year U.S. visa for workers. That visa, known as the H1-B, is capped at 65,000 workers worldwide.
Covington of counsel Brian Smith and senior international policy adviser Alan Larson are the head lobbyists handling the South Korea account. Firm senior counsel Martin Gold and associate Jonathan Wakely are assisting them.
Smith declined to comment.
Covington, which opened an office in Seoul on November 1, has lobbied the U.S. government for South Korea in the past. Most recently, the firm this year advocated for the government-funded Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute on issues concerning nuclear cooperation between South Korea and the United States, according to DOJ documents.