Some of the additional questions discussed at a meeting among USCIS, the California Service Center, and the religious worker stakeholders include the following:
Is there anything that can be done to relieve the burden of an overly burdensome Request for Evidence (RFE)?
An example was given for this question for the situation where there was a previous visit to a Roman Catholic Diocese and that diocese had filed petitions which were previously accepted. The question continues by asking what happens if the diocese is asked to provide:
- Leasing contracts
- Rental agreements
- Mortgage payments
- City or fire department occupancy permits
- Three months of utility receipts
- Photographs of each church
For every parish (there are over 100 such parishes) for everywhere the priest (seeking the R1 nonimmigrant visa) may be assigned to.
There’s no catch-all response for every situation. Each petition is judged on its own merits. The USCIS may have a need to request additional evidence to help determine if the petition can be approved. A request for an RFE is made one-at-a-time on a case-by-case basis.
If a petitioner believes the request is not appropriate (such as too burdensome), the petitioner can “contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.” The CSC premium processing hotline may also be used for premium processing filings.
How do prior approvals affect the situation where a sponsor is applying for multiple religious workers?
Can prior approvals be used when a sponsor files a petition for more than one worker – in the same way, that generally just one site inspection is needed to verify the legitimacy of the religious organization? For example, can prior approvals be referenced to show the petitioner’s legitimacy so that multiple documents aren’t required?
According to the USCIS regulations, each petition must have the initial evidence that is required for each petition.
The petition is then judged on its merits. Petitioners can submit additional information “(including approval notices for other cases from the same petitioner): if the petitioner thinks that will help. Since the information is just supplemental, the petitioner still needs to submit the initial required evidence.
Can the scope of an RFE possibly be limited based on known ways a religious group functions?
This question used the following example: “A 60-year-old Roman Catholic Diocese is widely known and is listed in The Official Catholic Directory, and the Petition is signed by the Bishop, who also is listed in the Directory.” Do those facts help possibly limit the scope of the Request for Evidence.
As the USCIS responded in many questions – each case is decided on its own merits. Each petition must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. The “lengthy history and the ecclesiastical hierarchy of a religious entity may be relied upon by the adjudicating officer in the exercise of discretion.” However, it’s still possible that an RFE may be issued.
What types of supporting evidence can help reduce the risk that an RFE will be issued?
This question is the same as the one in the header
The USCIS focused on:
- The key regulations: 8 C.F.R. §§ 214.2(r)(9), (r)(10) and (r)(11), as well as 204.5(m)(8), (m)(9), (m)(10), (m)(11),
- And the instructions for the key forms – Form I-129 and Form I-360
Generally, the USCIS suggests petitioners follow the letter of the above regulations and forms to reduce the risk of an RFE request.
Petitioners should also review the following checklists when submitted their initial evidence with their petition:
- Form M-736, Checklist for Religious Workers for Form I-129
- Form M-737, Optional Checklist for Special Immigrant Religious Workers Filing Form I-360
Optional Checklist for Form I-129 R-1 Filings