It looks like the pastry chef of Pittsburgh’s first macaron shop won’t have to move back to France. The co-owner of Squirrel Hill’s Gaby et Jules has been approved for a green card, the beginning of a more than five-year process to becoming a U.S. citizen.

For French native David Piquard, 44, of Murrysville, Thursday started as any other: He got up early and went for a walk before going to work at Gaby et Jules — he is also head chef at Paris 66 in East Liberty. “I hadn’t checked my phone right away, and then I saw an email from Ellen that my green card was approved today. I started crying and told my family,” he said.

Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

The email was from his lawyer, Ellen Freeman of the law firm Porter Wright, who has been working with Mr. Piquard since 2011. The Columbus, Ohio-based law firm specializing in immigration, labor and employment expanded into the Pittsburgh market last year. She met Mr. Piquard through Paris 66 owner Fred Rongier.

In October 2017, Mr. Piquard learned his immigrant visa had been rejected by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, throwing his business and his family — wife and two teenagers — into a holding pattern regarding whether they’d be able to stay in the region.

Mr. Piquard had worked in Pittsburgh on an H-1B visa for six years. A month after his visa had been rejected he was granted an extension until May 2019. The H-1B work visa is intended for foreigners in specialty occupations that require a college degree, such as chemistry, engineering, journalism, economics, and executive chef work. Laws have made it increasingly difficult to secure both H-1B visas as well as green cards, a designation of permanent residency.

In his case, the visa processing took longer than it did for several of Ms. Freeman’s other clients, “I think that perseverance and creativity and thinking out of the box…and really allowing the best and the brightest to demonstrate they are the best and brightest, and what a difference that can make in the community: It all came together in this particular case.”

Mr. Piquard first came to Pittsburgh in 2004, with plans to open a French patisserie with the financing of a French businessman. But when the businessman disappeared with the money, Mr. Piquard had to return to France. Several years later, Mr. Rongier called Mr. Piquard, who he had met earlier in Pittsburgh, asking him to return here to work for him at Paris 66.

“Fred started with modest aspirations for the restaurant,” Ms. Freeman said. “And I think in meeting David, he realized it could become much more.”

Mr. Piquard opened Gaby et Jules on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill in 2013. He also sells pastries at Market Street Grocery, Downtown, at Whole Foods in Pine, at Pittsburgh International Airport and at the Nemacolin Woodlands resort in Farmington, Fayette County.

When Mr. Piquard’s visa was first denied, Ms. Freeman said, “I was in shock that he was here for so long and still doesn’t have a green card,” noting that however long it had been, it can be difficult to navigate the system.

Before she got involved in his case, he applied for a visa under the “extraordinary ability” category, which she told the Post-Gazette was an “aggressive approach.”

Fast-forward to the present and Ms. Freeman said she thinks public support has helped Mr. Piquard navigate his visa tribulations, “The community really stood behind him,” she said. “I think that really helped the situation.”

Mr. Piquard agreed. “I am grateful for everyone’s support.”

Melissa McCart: mmccart@post-gazette.com

Original Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.com

CategoryLocal Press