Wolfsdorf Rosentahl LLP

USCIS Continues Suspension of Premium Processing for Religious Workers


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the suspension of premium processing service for religious worker (R-1) nonimmigrant visa petitions will continue at least until January 7, 2009. A previous six-month suspension was announced on January 4, 2008.

The Premium Processing Service provides faster processing of certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar day processing time. Because of the complexities of adjudicating R-1 nonimmigrant visa petitions, USCIS said it cannot reasonably ensure a level of processing service within 15 calendar days.

On April 25, 2007, USCIS proposed significant revisions to its regulations related to the special immigrant and nonimmigrant (R-1) religious worker visa classifications. The proposed rule suggested steps to eliminate fraud in the religious worker program and discussed potential vulnerabilities addressed in an August 2005 Benefit Fraud Assessment conducted by USCIS’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security. USCIS said it is considering comments on the proposed rule.

USCIS will continue processing R-1 nonimmigrant visa petitions, including procedures that may include inspections, evaluations, verifications, and compliance reviews for religious organizations. These procedures necessitate exceeding the 15-day guarantee for premium processing.

In the future, the agency said it may reconsider this decision if it is able to properly process these cases within 15 calendar days of receipt. USCIS may prescribe additional conditions of availability on the Premium Processing Service for religious worker petitions.

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