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This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating guidance in its Policy Manual regarding on-site inspections for special immigrant and nonimmigrant religious worker petitions. To assess the efficacy of on-site inspections for petitioning religious organizations, USCIS conducted a large-scale review of the results of these inspections over the past 12 years. The agency said that although pre-adjudicative religious worker site visits uncovered a significant decline in levels of noncompliance, USCIS has determined that "conducting random on-site 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, will add value and program efficiencies to the overall process and help ensure program integrity."

The guidance:

  • Clarifies that, as a matter of policy, USCIS no longer conducts mandatory pre-approval compliance review on-site inspections of all petitioners for religious workers.
  • Explains that USCIS randomly selects religious worker petitions for compliance review on-site inspections, which normally occur after the approval of the petition, and which include inspections of the work locations to verify the religious worker's work hours, compensation and duties.
  • Provides that USCIS may also conduct "for cause" inspections at any time in cases where there is suspected noncompliance with the terms of the religious worker petition or for fraud.
  • Clarifies that, if applicable, USCIS may issue a request for evidence or notice of intent to deny based on the findings of a pre-adjudication inspection, or a notice of intent to revoke based on the findings of a post-adjudication inspection. The petitioner will have an opportunity to respond.
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