R-1 Approval Despite Limited Documentation
- Applicant: Small Church
- Nationality: Chinese
- Applying For: I-129, R-1 Religious Visa
- Time: 9 months
- Client unwilling to meet the needs of an RFE
- Client unwilling to invest in their case
- Client providing limited documentation
- The need for a customized response to the RFE
We get clients of all kinds, and we help them all. We even help clients that seem unable to get out of their own way. Some clients have limited time or ability to deal with their immigration services, some just don’t have the resources necessary to devote themselves fully to resolving their case. While none of these seemed to apply to our client, Small Church, they unfortunately found themselves in a position where they were making the process of applying for an I-129, a petition for a nonimmigrant worker, a very difficult process. I-129’s is for companies who want to bring in a worker for a relatively short period to the United States to work. In this case, Small Church wanted to bring in a religious healer, someone who helped heal their constituent’s spirituality.
Small Church’s first filing on the matter resulted in a Request for Evidence (RFE) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). One of the main sticking points was that Small Church had not provided enough documentation regarding their financial abilities to pay for this healer. They had specified an amount of money per hour the healer would make, the amount of time per week the healer would work, and how many months they intended to have the healer work for them, but when it came time to prove that they could pay for such an expense, the bank accounts they provided simply were not enough evidence that they would be able to pull the full salary of the healer. The RFE requested a full audit of their financial ability, and that’s when Small Church came to us.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
When Small Church approached us, they were unhappy they had received an RFE and were looking to solve their case quickly and cheaply. They were fully unwilling to pay for a full audit of their finances, a cost that would have probably ranged into thousands of dollars. We believed that the limited documentation that Small Church provided USCIS was the cause of why they wanted a full CPA audit of Small Church’s finances. It was likely that USCIS asked for a full audit because they believed that Small Church officials may not have known what documentation to provide just because the initial filing was so sparse on meaningful documentation.
Thus, we believed and hoped that while we would essentially be ignoring the RFE’s request of a full CPA audit, a smaller scale signs off by a CPA on documentation that we provided them should get the job done. This is only possible because of the level of documentation and preparation that our firm regularly does for our clients. Few firms are as used to reviewing client financials, selecting proper documentation, and creating documentation to show and explain the financials as we are. Because we do have that experience, usually to send it to USCIS, we were able to prepare documentation to be sent off to a CPA. We hoped that the CPA would review the documentation, sign off on it after reviewing it, and write us a letter to send to USCIS saying the documentation proved that they did have the financial ability to pay for the healer.
“We are used to providing clients with customized solutions and responses to RFE’s, but this one was unique even by our standards. We’ve put together financials for companies in the past, but it is pretty rare that we also have to get a CPA to sign off on it as well. However, we did find a CPA willing to sign off because we proved to the CPA through our documentation that our client did have the proper funds to pay the healer. At the end of the day, it was an extra level of work, but one that we’ve done the basis of for our clients in the past.” – Andy, Paralegal
We were able to find a CPA willing to review our documentation and we sent it off. We quickly got a positive response and a letter from the CPA to give to USCIS saying that Small Church was capable of paying for their new temporary employee. The key was that while Small Church’s total accounts may not have been a large enough sum to pay the employee’s salary in full, they were more than profitable from month-to-month to pay the employee monthly or bi-weekly. Once we were able to document this for the CPA, the sign-off and letter came quickly. Along with the financial documentation we put together and the letter from the CPA, we also sent in an affidavit by Small Church’s leadership, stating that their constituency was extremely loyal and generous, and they expected to see an increase in donations once the healer was brought in and their job was explained to the constituency. Small Church received their RFE in May and we were able to respond by the August deadline.
In the case of R-1’s (a non-resident working visa for religious work purposes) and I-129’s, we know that the documentation is sufficient when USCIS schedules an onsite review of the church or physical property of the religious organization. They never make those appointments until it is the very last step in the process and every step previous has been green-lit. Thus, when Small Church received word that a USCIS case officer was indeed intending to come to review their church, we knew that we had succeeded in making our case. The Small Church was elated that this struggle was over and could not be more grateful for all the hard work put in their case.
*Name has been changed for client privacy.
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