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USCIS Announces Major Inspection Change to the R-1 Visa Process

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Mar 28, 2023 | 0 Comments

Photo by Mohammad Aqhib on Unsplash

It's not every day that USCIS makes a positive change, but it seems like lately the agency has been reassessing itself for improvements.

Its latest implementation has it changing the method by which it does on-site inspections for religious worker petitions.

What is an R-1 Religious Worker Visa?

  • USCIS describes an R-1 nonimmigrant as a noncitizen who is coming to the United States temporarily to work at least part time (an average of at least 20 hours per week) as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation and be employed by a:
    • Non-profit religious organization in the United States;
    • Religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
    • Non-profit organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.
  • To qualify, you must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing the petition.

The R-1 visa petition is very involved and very detailed. For the last several years, USCIS would perform on-site inspections for religious worker visas - making sure that every aspect of the job described in the R-1 petition matched the petitioner's workplace schedule and responsibilities. These inspections were being done prior to a petitioner's R-1 being approved.

For the last 12 years USCIS has been conducting a large-scale review of the results of its R-1 site inspections. It found that there was not a lot of non-compliance going on at the religious worker sites - essentially, people who were applying were being honest about the work they were doing.

USCIS is not ending site visits for R-1 petitions, but because of these findings USCIS is now transitioning into “conducting random onsite inspections to monitor compliance, coupled with the ability of an officer to refer religious worker petitions for a compliance review at any time during the application lifecycle.” 

While a surprise visit by a federal officer isn't always the most welcome thing, we agree that this new policy change will be beneficial in improving the rate at which R-1 petitions are processed.

If you have questions about applying for a USCIS petition, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.

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