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As the daughter of Polish Holocaust survivors who came to America in 1952, Eleanor Pelta has an intimate sense of what it means to be an immigrant. That understanding has been a touchstone for the Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner over the course of her career. “I love what I do, both on a philosophical and personal level,” says Pelta. “The people who come here and settle here — their grandchildren won’t know my name, but I’m the reason they’re here.” And employers certainly know her name. Pelta, 46, represents a wide range of businesses, who turn to her for help with managing high-volume employee transfers, securing temporary and permanent visas, and conducting immigration due diligence in corporate transactions. “She’s fantastic,” says Victor Montalvo, regional mobility manager for the Americas for DHL International. With operations in 368 countries, DHL relies on Pelta to smooth the path to visas for executives traveling to and from the United States and Canada. Montalvo praises Pelta for her “creative solutions” and her ability to “really be a partner in the process, rather than simply a vendor. She’s genuinely interested in our products.” Pelta also handles outbound immigration. For example, when McCain Foods Ltd., the world’s largest frozen-french-fry producer, opened a factory in China in 2005, the company tapped Pelta for assistance in transferring management-level employees to the new operation. Working with co-counsel in China, she coordinated the process of obtaining visas and residency permits for the executives. Pelta frequently conducts training sessions for clients, holding “immigration town meetings” in person or via Webcast. The idea is to educate foreign-national workers about the immigration process. “I always feel comfortable with her opinions and advice; she’s an expert,” says Julie Baker, a human resources specialist at Choice Hotels International. Pelta works with the lodging franchisor when a new hire needs a visa to come to the United States or a current employee needs a green card. Baker is also impressed by Pelta’s personal touch and her ability to remember even small details about people’s lives. “She really tries to get to know you,” says Baker. Another area of expertise for Pelta is qualifying companies as “treaty trader” or “treaty investor” entities. The United States has commercial treaties with dozens of countries. Nationals of those countries may receive a nonimmigrant E-1 or E-2 visa if their company engages in substantial trade with the United States or if they are managing a commercial enterprise in which they have invested substantial capital. Pelta earned her law degree in 1986 from Harvard Law School. She was drawn to immigration law from the beginning, gaining experience via a clinical internship with professor Deborah Anker. Immigration law was a natural choice. “I grew up in an immigrant community,” Pelta says, recalling her childhood in a close-knit enclave of Holocaust survivors in the Philadelphia area. “We became each other’s families.” Her first job out of law school was at the D.C. office of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, where she worked primarily on bankruptcy litigation. After a year she joined the immigration group at the firm now called Arent Fox. There were subsequent stops at Baker & McKenzie and Berry, Appleman & Leiden, and then, in 2003, she signed on with Morgan, Lewis. Pelta is a partner in the firm’s labor and employment group and managing director of Morgan Lewis Resources’ Immigration and Nationality Services. Her team handles a large volume of visa work and other projects on a flat-fee basis, with six attorneys and 40 nonlawyer specialists located in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. “It’s a good way to leverage an immigration practice,” she says. Overall, Pelta describes her chosen specialty as “creating order out of chaos.” She stresses that immigration law is “very, very technical. . . . You have to be a very sensitive and careful reader of statutory and regulatory language. But you can find little gems in there that can help someone in a bind.”

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