R-1 Approval After Being Let Go From Petitioning Organization

R-1 Approval After Being Let Go

  • Applicant: Christian Minister Mr. Ying
  • Nationality: China
  • Role: Apostle of Revival
  • Applying for: R-1 Visa for Religious Workers, Extension
  • Challenges:
    • Petitioning organization was not a church
    • Mr. Ying had a wife and three children with very little income
    • Mr. Ying was a Pastor for a church in China which was a home church, not state recognized
    • Pastor Ying had been fired from his original organization that had filed his first R-1 petition


Looking for a law firm that could successfully represent a new R-1 case, Mr. Ying came to us at Tsang and Associates in hopes that we would be able to help file a Petition for a religious worker extension with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

R-1 cases can be complicated in and of themselves. But Pastor Ying’s case would prove especially challenging – he needed an R-1 approval after being let go from his job with his original R-1 petitioning organization. Now for Mr. Ying and his family to be able to remain in the United States, we would need to assist them in finding a new Christian organization that would be willing to petition him for a new R-1. Otherwise, Mr. Ying and his family would be forced to return to China. Mr. Ying was extremely eager to have his new R-1 petition approved. As such, he came to us and we helped him file his petition in September 2015.


Beyond being fired by the original petitioning organization, there were some other challenges. Pastor Ying was not at all wealthy and there was limited documentation for his previous ministry in China. Despite the difficulties in this case, we strongly believed that we would be able to form a petition that would garner approval for Mr. Ying a second time under an R-1 extension.


Overcoming Pastor Ying’s Firing from his Previous Petitioner

Employment-based visas are only in force so long as the beneficiary remains employed with the petitioning organization. As Pastor Ying was no longer employed with his first petitioner, his family and he would need to return to China if he could not find a new petitioner. The fact that he had been terminated further complicated the problem, as this would hinder any ability to find new employment. Eventually, we were able to assist Pastor Ying in attaining a new conglomerate organization to act as his petitioner to secure a new R-1 approval after being let go.

In our submission to USCIS, we did not explicitly state that Pastor Ying had been terminated from his previous position. Rather we argued that all parties involved had agreed that Pastor Ying would be a better fit with the new petitioning organization. While the new petitioning organization was not technically a church, we were able to prove that it was a nonprofit organization with a religious mission to meet this R-1 requirement.


Proving the Petitioner’s Nonprofit Status and Religious Mission

According to USCIS regulation, the petitioner must be a nonprofit organization with a religious mission to qualify to petition on behalf of a beneficiary for an R-1 visa. Generally, speaking, in most R-1 cases the petitioning organization would be a church. The challenge was in the fact that this organization was not a church, but rather an organization with relatively few employees. The organization was oriented around organizing events for other churches.

To prove that this was a nonprofit organization, we provided the tax exemption letter given by the IRS indicating tax-exempt status. We then presented the Articles of Incorporation from its start in 2004, establishing that this was a revival focused ministry aimed at helping other Protestant churches achieve their full potential by providing resources, training, and connections.

The fact that the organization was small with few employees also posed a challenge to the case. To overcome this problem, we produced evidence of the organization’s Christian events, one of which involved the petitioner leading 37 agencies and 37 churches in an event emphasizing the love of Christianity.

Moreover, we detailed the organization’s outreach events and its wide scope spanning all across the United States. We also presented the organization’s history and provided pictures of events hosted by the organization. Therefore, despite the distinction in this case of the petitioner not being a church, we were still able to establish that it nevertheless met the letter of the law.


Proving the Beneficiary’s Religious Background

One of the vital components of Mr. Ying’s application for R-1 classification was detailing his religious background and spiritual growth over the course of his life. We explained that though Mr. Ying had attained for himself a lucrative career in finance, he determined that there was something more to his life; in turn, he began to pursue God to find spiritual strength. He attended the International School of Ministry and graduated with his diploma in Biblical Studies.

We then showed that after his time at the International School of Ministry, he started a house church in China where he had been ordained as a pastor and had served the congregation for over ten years.

Further, we highlighted that Mr. Ying was an internationally renowned speaker, pastor, and minister. We proved this using various invitations demonstrating that he had been invited to speak to congregations, lead worship services, give sermons, and discuss Christianity in China at locations around the world. Despite the fact that Mr. Ying was the pastor of a house church, meaning that there were limited documents available due to China’s suppression of religion, we were able to establish Mr. Ying’s deeply rooted faith and continuous labor over the past 10 years.


Proving the Beneficiary’s Qualifications and Duties as a Pastor

Next, we had to demonstrate Pastor Ying’s duties as a pastor. This involved showing that he was fully trained according to the denomination’s standards to conduct religious worship. In order to establish this, we produced his diploma in biblical studies, his certificates in ordination, and evidence that he had served as a pastor for 10 years in China.

We then had to establish that the duties that Mr. Ying would be performing could not be done by anyone without his qualifications and experience. We were able to provide a calendar of activities which included responsibilities such as training pastors and ministers to spread the Word of God, training church staff to support other pastors in their work, organizing and executing discipleship programs and leadership seminars, and preparing and performing sermons. We noted that these duties could only be performed by those who were well-versed in the denomination’s religious beliefs.


Proving the Beneficiary’s Sufficient Salary and Compensation

One of the requirements for approval of the R-1 visa is that the beneficiary must be sufficiently compensated by the petitioner or else be able to self-support so as to not become a burden to society. This was a major challenge because the Pastor was not earning a high salary. Mr. Ying would receive a salary of $36,000 from the new petitioning organization. This was a challenge because he was not paid in a traditional manner that would create pay stubs to use as evidence. Therefore, we needed to prove that he was paid by the organization through other means. We produced Pastor Ying’s W-2 form and Bank of America statements that proved that he was indeed compensated.

Further, we were able to prove through the petitioning organization’s bank statements and tax returns that it was indeed capable of compensating Mr. Ying. To further overcome the issue of low salary, Mr. Ying’s bank statements also proved that he did have personal savings that would ensure that his financial needs & his family’s would indeed be met. Although this compensation was low, the petitioning organization provided a statement indicating that they would be providing the client with room and board, thus mitigating a portion of his financial obligations.

Proving the Beneficiary’s Two-Year Membership in the Same Denomination as Nonprofit Foundation

Finally, we needed to demonstrate that both Mr. Ying and the nonprofit organization had a common set of beliefs, form of worship, and common doctrine for at least 2 years prior to filing the R-1 application.

We proved that both Mr. Ying’s home church in China and the new petitioning organization were of the same denomination. We acquired the by-laws and statements of faith for both organizations and compared them focusing on the main components of Christianity: the Trinity, the Bible, and Salvation. We noted that both organizations believed that there is only one God existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


When the decision came in, Pastor Ying was ecstatic. He was concerned that the challenges in his case would provide insurmountable problems. When his R-1 approval came in, he began another stint as the pastor for his petitioning organization. The R-1 approval after being let go was filed on February 21, 2018. We received the R-1 approval notice on March 15, 2018 without a Request for Evidence. What normally would have been a difficult R-1 case was approved in short order.

If you are looking for assistance with an R-1 visa or you’d like to talk with someone about our other immigration services, contact us. Our team of experienced legal professionals is here to help.