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Religious Workers Must Show Two Years' Paid Experience

by Sheela Murthy, et al., attorneys from the Murthy Law Firm

The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) recently dismissed the appeal of a petition for a Special Immigrant Religious Worker, finding that the beneficiary could not demonstrate that she had two years of paid employment prior to filing the petition. The AAO denied the petition for employment of a missionary, concluding that the beneficiary did not have the requisite paid experience. This is a non-precedent case that has not been released. The Murthy Law Firm did not act as the attorney in either the initial filing or the appeal to the AAO in this case.

Two Years of Full-Time Work Must be Established Prior to Filing

As regular MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers will recall from our December 29, 2006 article CSC to Issue RFEs on All Religious Workers' I-360 Petitions, a foreign national, seeking permanent residence status as a religious worker, must submit Form I-360, Petition for an AmerAsian, Widow/er, or Special Immigrant.

The regulation discussed by the AAO requires the beneficiary of the I-360 petition to have been continuously employed by a qualifying religious organization for at least the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition. This regulation further requires each I-360 petition to be accompanied by a letter from an authorized official of the petitioning religious organization to establish that the beneficiary has the requisite two years of membership in the denomination and two years of qualifying experience in the religious vocation or profession.

Facts of this Case

The AAO found that the beneficiary in question had entered the U.S. on a B-2 nonimmigrant visa and had served as a missionary tending to the spiritual and physical needs of the elderly. The AAO determined that the beneficiary had not been granted any work authorization and that her past employment was as an ordained licensed missionary.

In response to a Request for Evidence, the petitioning religious organization provided proof of the missionary's salary for one of the required two years of employment. The pay records provided did not indicate continuous, full-time employment and the petitioner could not provide the beneficiary's tax documentation. Relying on prior case decisions, the AAO stated that it requires proof that the beneficiary of an I-360 petition was employed in the proper religious vocation and profession on a full-time basis and paid accordingly.

Investigations of Petitioning Religious Organizations

As reported in our December 7, 2007 MurthyBulletin article, Immigrant Religious Worker Petitions Require Site Visits, available on MurthyDotCom, the USCIS has implemented stricter anti-fraud procedures for religious worker immigrant petitions. It is mandating that each petitioner be reviewed by the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) before the I-360 petition can be adjudicated.

Adjustment of Status

Once the I-360 petition is approved, the beneficiary may seek to adjust status to that of lawful permanent resident. The filing procedures for such applications are available in our December 7, 2007 MurthyDotCom article, Immigrant Religious Worker Petitions Require Site Visits, where they are discussed generally.


This non-precedent AAO decision emphasizes that the burden of proof in I-360 Special Immigrant Religious Worker cases rests with the petitioning religious organization. This is not a new development and there are many such cases. It is a recent reiteration of a long-standing requirement that must be met in order to obtain success in this type of case.

This article originally appeared in Murthy Bulletin Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Sheela Murthy, et al., attorneys from the Murthy Law Firm, attorneys from the Murthy Law Firm, has represented clients located around the world in all aspects of U.S. immigration. Attorney Sheela Murthy and her team of legal professionals handle cases for Fortune 500 companies, mid-sized and small companies, as well as individuals undergoing the U.S. immigration process.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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