Suspension of Premium Processing for R-1 Religious Workers Extended18 Jan 2008
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently issued an announcement (PDF 40.6KB) that extends the suspension of premium processing services for religious worker (R-1) petitions for another six months, until July 8, 2008. A previous six-month suspension of such premium processing services was announced by the USCIS on June 18, 2007.
R-1 Adjudication Procedure to Become More Stringent
MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers may recall our May 11, 2007 article USCIS Proposes Revisions for Religious Workers, which reported significant changes to the process proposed by USCIS for obtaining nonimmigrant visas for religious workers. The USCIS is currently considering public comments and finalizing its new regulations for R-1 visas. As the cited article notes, the USCIS has detected high levels of fraud in religious worker immigration categories.
USCIS Intends to Reduce Rates of Fraud
The proposed R-1 regulation will include new steps to eliminate fraud in the religious worker program. Current USCIS regulations include a number of procedures designed to ensure the legitimacy of the R-1 petitioner and the statements made in an R-1 petition. These procedures may include inspections, evaluations, verifications, and compliance reviews of petitioning religious organizations.
These anti-fraud procedures require more than the fifteen (15) days to complete, which prevents the use of the premium processing procedure for such cases. Long-time readers may recall our June 8, 2001 article, INS Issues Instructions for Premium Processing – June 2001, available on MurthyDotCom. It reported that premium processing requires a petitioner to pay an additional $1,000 but results in a review of the petition within fifteen calendar (15) days, rather than being processed under normal USCIS timelines.
The USCIS has stated that if, in the future, it is able to process R-1 petitions securely within the premium processing time lines, the R-1 nonimmigrant category may once again be authorized for premium processing services. If this occurs, the USCIS may place additional restrictions on the premium processing of R-1 visas. Readers will be updated through MurthyDotCom and the MurthyBulletin as there are new developments in this matter of concern to religious organizations, which often need the services of qualified religious workers. These religious organizations must now plan sufficiently ahead due to expected lengthy processing times in the processing of R-1 petitions.