Client: Church Association
Client’s Country of Origin: Vietnam
Case Type: I-129R Petition for Non-Immigrant Religious Worker

Our client a non-profit Vietnamese Buddhist temple retained Attorney Charmaine Rozario of Herman Legal Group to assist with petitioning a religious worker to come to the Cleveland area. Our client was suffering due to a lack of Buddhist monks and nuns in the US. The temple operated with Buddhist monks/nuns who were sent to them by the Vietnamese American Unified Buddhist Congress in the US to perform services ONLY for Buddhist holidays, festivals, special events, and New Year celebrations. As a result, our Client decided to find a Buddhist monk who was qualified to carry out special duties such as performing religious worship services, Dharma teaching, conducting meditation training, charitable services, and other miscellaneous services such as wedding ceremonies, memorials for deceased individuals, and funerals.

At the time, the beneficiary was present within the US on F-1 status as an international student pursuing higher studies. Prior to coming to the US, the beneficiary was a devout Buddhist monk actively pursuing Buddhist studies overseas. He had renounced worldly pleasures in 1986 at a Monastery in Vietnam. As his F-1 status was about to expire, the temple association offered him a position in R-1 status to work as a full-time Monk at our Client – the Vietnamese Temple. R-1 status would allow the beneficiary to change his status and extend his residency in exchange while working full time as a Buddhist monk. R-1 nonimmigrant status permits the beneficiary to obtain a maximum of five-year lawful permanent residency within the US.

While an R-1 petition might seem straightforward: the temple must establish that it is a bona fide nonprofit religious institution, and the beneficiary must be qualified for the position however, there are maybe several roadblocks that arise when the USCIS decides to complicate the process. For instance, the timeliness of ICE officers visiting the institution in order to validate the presence of an actual church may be delayed, and the USCIS conducts a background check on the institution to authenticate its nonprofit affiliation and workers’ wages, which becomes more difficult and complex for smaller churches that rely on weekly collections to pay their religious workers.

With the assistance of the Herman Legal Group, the overall process was quick and efficient with no issues.