Premium Processing of R-1 Petitions

USCIS has recently been rejecting Premium Processing (PP) requests for R-1 petitions for unprecedented reasons. For R-1 visas, reserved for religious workers, PP is typically granted when the petitioner has previously sponsored an R-1. Historically, if the parent organization of the petitioner had sponsored R-1 workers, the petitioner would be eligible for PP. Unfortunately, we are now seeing PP rejections based on the fact that a petitioner itself has never sponsored an R-1. Attorney Yeon Me Kim explains this concerning development.

The premium processing request, which speeds up visa processing times, is available for many immigration petitions. Most of the time, it is a matter of paying an additional filing fee to expedite the adjudication of the petition without other conditions attached. The USCIS filing fees are subject to change, but the current fee for premium processing requests is $1,440. If this request is accepted, USCIS guarantees it will either approve, deny, or issue a request for evidence or RFE within 15 calendar days. If an RFE is issued within this period, 15 calendar day clock is paused until the requested information is provided to USCIS. Please note that in October, 2020, USCIS announced that they intend to extend the timeline for premium processing adjudication from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.

For the R-1 visa category, USCIS grants the premium processing request only if the petitioner/nonprofit religious organization had previously sponsored an R-1 or special religious immigrant visa petition and was site visited by USCIS.

For a petitioner, an umbrella organization of the religious worship places, like a United Methodist Church conference that governs local churches in a certain geographic area, USCIS will typically grant the premium processing request as long as the petitioner has previously filed an R-1 or special immigrant visa petition and received a site visit.

Unfortunately, we recently have begun to see USCIS reject premium processing for an R-1 if the local church itself, where the pastor would work, has never before sponsored an R-1 or special religious immigrant visa petition, and therefore, not been site visited. We are now seeing these rejections although the umbrella organization was site visited previously. If USCIS rejects the premium processing because the local church was not site visited, unfortunately, there is no way to appeal that decision. For an R-1 case, if the premium processing is not available, the processing time can be 6-8 months. Thus, now more than ever, it is essential to plan ahead if you intend to file an R-1.

USCIS has recently begun rejecting Premium Processing (PP) requests for R-1 petitions for unprecedented reasons. For R-1 visas, reserved for religious workers, PP is typically granted when the petitioner has previously sponsored an R-1. Historically, if the parent organization of the petitioner had sponsored R-1 workers, the petitioner would be eligible for PP. Unfortunately, we are now seeing PP rejections based on the fact that a petitioner itself has never sponsored an R-1. Attorney Yeon Me Kim explains this concerning development.

Categories: Other