In our previous blog post we began a discussion of key timing considerations for religious workers. Our next practice tip with regard to timing concerns the ability to use the USCIS Premium Processing Service to expedite adjudication of R-1 petitions.
Initial R-1 petitions can take several months to adjudicate and cannot be expedited via Premium Processing, because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) must conduct a site inspection, or a visit to the religious institution sponsoring the prospective foreign worker. This visit is not necessary if one has already been conducted at the sponsoring organization. This is why an R-1 extension can typically be filed via Premium Processing and adjudicated very quickly.
Another unique rule for R-1 petitions is the ability to file more than six months in advance of the proposed start date. The general rule articulated in the instructions to Form I-129, the form required for R-1 petitions, states that a petition may not be filed more than six months in advance of the date employment is scheduled to begin. This is a problem, because regular processing for R-1 petitions typically runs between 4 and 6 months. If there is a request for evidence, it could well take over six months to get a final decision. Fortunately, a close review of the Adjudicator Field Manual, 34.5(l), the USCIS’ instructional manual utilized by adjudicating officers, reveals that R-1 petitions in particular may be filed more than six months in advance of the scheduled employment start date.
Our next blog post will conclude this series with a discussion of I-360 petitions for permanent residence on behalf of religious workers.