Premium Processing Service Resumes for R-1s07 Aug 2009
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reinstated premium processing for Nonimmigrant Religious Workers (R-1s), effective July 20, 2009. The premium, expedited processing option was suspended since November 28, 2006, based on concerns of fraud. The premium processing service for R-1 petitions will be limited to petitioning religious organizations that have successfully completed onsite inspections.
Background of R-1 Processing
The USCIS completed a study of fraud in R-1 petitions in August 2005. Based upon the findings of that study, a site-visit requirement was added to the R-1 process. These site reviews are intended to establish the legitimacy of the sponsoring religious organization. This, in turn, made it necessary to suspend premium processing service for R-1 petitions. The USCIS extended this suspension several times, as explained to MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers in our January 18, 2008 article, Suspension of Premium Processing for R-1 Religious Workers Extended.
Premium Processing Available after Onsite Visit
For religious organizations that have undergone USCIS site visits, and have been favorably reviewed, it is possible once again to file R-1 petitions under the premium processing service. This results in a review of the petition within 15 days, in exchange for an additional $1000 premium processing fee. The USCIS searches its system for the site review information, but suggests that it is helpful to submit a copy of an approved R-1 petition for a case in which a site visit has been completed.
Many R-1 religious workers are legitimate and their work is often beneficial to society as a whole. It is encouraging that the USCIS is comfortable resuming the premium processing service for R-1s in bona fide cases.