Religious Workers Order: Concurrent Filing to be Accepted by USCIS

June 11, 2009

In a groundbreaking order, a United States District Court ordered the USCIS to begin accepting concurrent filings of the Form I-360 (Petition for Special Immigrant) and Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status) on behalf of religious workers.

For years, the USCIS has treated petitions for permanent residency by religious workers differently than all other categories of employment-sponsored immigrants. Asserting that religious workers and religious organizations are more prone to submit fraudulent petitions than in other employment -based cases, this USCIS rationale for refusing to accept concurrent filings was struck down in no uncertain terms. The Court cited that the preliminary injunction staying unlawful presence by religious workers was issued as a means of "avoiding or ameliorating the injuries that arose from enforcement of the invalid regulation."

This is a great step forward to religious workers who provide ministerial services and spiritual services to followers of all faiths through this great nation that has honored religious freedom from its inception. Rather than treat servants of faith differently, disparately, and with denigration, Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the Western District of Washington directed the USCIS to begin accepting concurrently filed I-360 and I-485 applications. The order also directed USCIS to accept I-485 applications from those applications with I-360s pending.

In a previous order by the Court, some religious workers who have fallen out of status waiting for final adjudications of long-pending I-360 petitions (some pending for years), may still file I-485 applications for adjustment of status, assuming that they are eligible for relief. If you are a religious worker with a pending I-360 or want to file a concurrent I-360 with adjustment of status, contact Law Offices of J Craig Fong for a free consultation. --ecf