Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC is a full-service immigration law practice that provides legal advice and representation to people and companies in the United States. The firm has over 200 years of combined legal experience among its attorneys and serves its clients from offices in Cleveland, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus, Minneapolis, and Raleigh. Contact us here to schedule a consultation to discuss your needs.
Minister from South Africa approved for religious worker visa
Religious worker R-1 application at US consulate in South Africa: We were hired by a local, fast growing protestant church to bring a long time member and experienced minister of the religious denomination from S. African to the United States to help with the Church’s growth and expansion. From the beginning we knew it’s going to be a hard case because the beneficiary really did not have many ties in his home country, did not have any formal education or training in his religion, not much official documents to verify his past experience and positions he had held with various church either because of the nature of the denomination and also because of the drastic changes the denomination has gone through over the past half century. But based on our extensive experience, we believed that we could build up a strong case and we worked closely with the petitioning church in the U.S. and provided clear and constructive guidance on gathering each piece of information that we believed would be substituted for formal and official documents which would be required to verify his background and qualifications in front of the consular officer. When our client went to the interview November 2008, the consular officer was so impressed and said “you really did your home work” and the interview lasted less than 20 minutes in and the client and wife were granted R1/R2 visa immediately. As of today, our office has helped the same petitioner bring in 4 religious workers already on R-1 visa.
R-1 for South African Minister
An Ohio denomination of an international faith group filed an R-1 religious worker petition on behalf of a minister from South Africa. The petition was put together and filed via premium processing due to the Church’s previous work site visit by USCIS/ICE pursuant to a previous R-1 petition on a different foreign minister’s behalf. The congregation is pleased to learn that the R-1 petition was approved in a matter of days, and now the minister and his family are seeking a visa application date in Johannesburg.
Canadian Minister’s R-1 Approved
An Ohio denomination of an international faith group filed an R-1 religious worker petition on behalf of a minister from Canada. The petition was put together and filed via premium processing due to the Church’s previous work site visit by USCIS/ICE pursuant to a previous R-1 petition on a different foreign minister’s behalf. The headquarters for the religious denomination is pleased to learn that the R-1 petition was approved in a matter of days. Canadians do not require nonimmigrant visas to be issued by the US Consulate or Embassy in this classification, so the minister and his family are preparing to relocate to the US.
R-1 Appeal and RFE Response: Chinese Religious Minister
A Chinese Christian missionary minister and a local church leader came to our office last May with a biggest R-1 visa denial, denying everything about the petitioning church and the beneficiary under all R-1 visa requirements. The Petitioner is a missionary group who wanted to petition the R-1 visa for the beneficiary to work with the local church. The case was originally filed by a law firm in New York. Because there seemed to be no hope at all left on the denial, the law firm advised the beneficiary to leave US before accruing 180 days of overstay, which was coming up soon. ( OPT expired in Feb. 2010) Neither the petitioner nor the Beneficiary wanted the beneficiary to leave. They did not see any chance for him to come back to the US once he left.
We were shocked at the first look of the denial and the initial filing and RFE response, and then we asked if any straightforward and convincing facts/evidence could be provided to support either a motion to reopen or an appeal so the beneficiary could still wait here in the US. But the answer was basically “no” because the petitioner had been sponsoring R-1 workers this way for many years and never had a problem; they did not understand why it was so hard now all of sudden.
We took the time to explain to them the current USCIS policies and practices on all religious workers’ visas and told them what we could do to help them, and what they must provide to save their case. Since there were barely two weeks left by the time the beneficiary was finally convinced and felt comfortable to sign up with us, we did not have time to file a motion. The only choice was to appeal so we could buy some time to gather necessary evidence. And we knew it would take a long time to hear the decision on the appeal. After a month’s extensive research and intensive struggle with all parties involved for supporting documents, we filed to AAO (the Administrative Appeals Office) the supporting brief and a thick stack of hard evidence in June 2010.
Unexpectedly, we received AAO’s decision in December 2010 affirming all points of our appeal except Petitioner’s financial ability in supporting the R-1 beneficiary. AAO rescinded the case back to California Center and in January 2011, California Service Center re –opened the case and issued the second RFE. It was then another round of struggle in getting the right supporting documents from all parties involved. The R-1 visa was approved in Feb 2011.
In this case, we spent about the same amount of time in dealing with the government and in dealing with the employer and beneficiary.
Since it was so easy to get R-1 visa before, it’s very hard and also very important to explain to all parties involved what USCIS expects to see in a good R-1 filing and what documents must be provided to secure an approval. Otherwise by the time the denial comes, the beneficiary very often has been out of status for over 180 days and become subject to the 3/10 year bars if the R never gets approved or no further actions are taken.
We are very proud in helping a major Chinese Missionary Group in the US clarify all misunderstanding about their missions in supporting local churches in the United States, and their eligibility in sponsoring R-1 religious workers. We are also very happy to see the local church get the missionary minister they really love and respect. We are especially happy for the missionary minister, who is highly educated, dedicated and qualified, to be able to put his passion and devotion to work.
Buddhist Monk Wins I-360 Religious Worker/ I-485
Our office was contacted in April 2008 to provide Green Card evaluation for a religious leader of a newly established Buddhist group. After we talked to him, we were very impressed/fascinated with his personal and religious background, his education and career but in the meanwhile very puzzled by how he had worked in the United States. He just worked, everywhere, upon request and invitation. The organization was so loosely structured, no 501 ( c) (3) determination although it was/is a religious organization, and the leader was like a travelling star working at many Buddhist centers in the U.S. and foreign countries each of which is a separate business entity. We really believed that this religious leader could get a movie deal faster than a Green Card. To help with his Green Card application, we spent a lot of time studying their religious activities, figuring out his employment history, and exactly how he was compensated and also helped the group with the 501 (c) (3) filing. We filed the case in May 2008, and submitted more evidence in Sept. 2008. In Feb. 2009 the I-360 was approved. We also had two other religious workers’ I-360 approved for the same group. In June 2009, we filed the I-485 for this client and helped him clarified a historical issue regarding his birth place. In October 2009, with our preparation, he successfully passed the I-485 interview (to confirm his birth place) by USCIS and his I-485 was approved at the same day of the interview.
Translator for Monks Receives R-1
Our office has not only successfully assisted our religious monks/Buddhists in obtaining their Green Cards but also successfully in getting the Green Card for their Chinese translator who works closely with the religious group and performs written and verbal translations for Buddhist teachings to and communications with Chinese groups both in the United States and in other countries. The interpreter is Taiwan national who joined the Tibetan Buddhist group in Taiwan while attending their Buddhist teaching there. We achieved the I-360 approval for the interpreter relying on her many years of membership, volunteer work, employment with the organization and her demonstrated knowledge of and devotion to the religion. Her I-360 was filed in July 2008 and was approved in Dec. 2008 without Request for Evidence. Her I-485 was filed also in Dec. 2008 and was approved in Nov. 2009, again without Request for Evidence.
R-1/R-2s: Religious workers: Hindu Priest
We filed an R-1 for a Hindu Priest and R-2s for family members in October 2007, and did an RFE response. The R-1 and R-2s were approved in April 2009.
After November 21, 2008, R-1/R-2 Applications Require I-129 Approval
Please note that after November 21, 2008, the U.S. consulate will not accept R-1/R-2 applications anymore without an I-129 approval from the USCIS and the onsite investigation and other stringent requirements will make religious workers/ministers’ cases much harder. In a time like this, our office will further demonstrate our expertise and superiority in this area of practice of immigrant law.
A good example of this is that while the petitioner in the above mentioned cases are so pleased that we had helped the Church bring 4 religious workers before the new rules were published they are also looking forward to work with us under the new rule because we have been incorporating almost all the requirements specified under the new rule for all our consular processing and border application R-1 cases for a long time so the new rule would only work towards our advantage in religious worker/ministers’ cases.
I-360 based I-485
Our office filed a religious worker’s visa petition for our Filipino clients in 2007 and the I-360 petition was approved this year.
Right after the filing, we advised the client possibility of a USCIS’ onsite audit. We also made a substantive response to an RFE (Request for Evidence) issued by USCIS. After the RFE response, USCIS audited the religious immigrant visa sponsor which is a missionary organization, and the audit went very well and the I-360 approval was approved soon after. Because the quota was open for special religious workers, we filed complete I-485 (Green Card) applications for the beneficiary and all three family members right away and after only 4 months of waiting, all four I-485 applications have been approved with RFE request. The Client and his whole family were so excited to find the Green Cards in their mail.
Green Card Attained Quickly for Catholic Priest
A Catholic Priest from Africa, who came into to the US under an R-1 visa in 2005 and was referred by his friend to our office for Green Card application in 2008. We filed his petition in October 2008 and his I-360 was approved in March 2009, in only short 5 months considering the time it also takes for USCIS to do onsite audit at the client’s employment location. We file our Client’s I-485 in May 2009 and his Green Card was approved and was received in October 2009. The entire process takes only barely one year. The client emailed us recently saying: “I learnt about you from a friend that you do such good job, no doubt about it."
I-360 approval for Hindu Priest
We were very happy to be able to help our client with an I-360 religious worker's visa petition and to get the I-360 approved. The employer in this petition came to us about a year ago and asked us to help keep a visiting Hindu priest so he could stay and serve the temple permanently. During the initial conversation, we asked the employer if the temple had ever sponsored an immigrant before. We learned that the Temple filed visa petitions before, but none had been approved before. USCIS and INS did not even consider the Temple as a religious organization although it is recognized by the IRS as non profit and religious. Based on this information and also based on the current visa status of the Hindu Priest, our office did an extensive study of the case including a trip to the Temple to personally inspect the activities of the Temple and its nature of religion. Based on all fact collected we filed the petition to U.S.CIS with clear explanation of the qualification of the petitioner and the qualification of the beneficiary. Nonetheless, we received a big RFE (Request for evidence) asking just about everything there was to ask about a religious organization. We patiently and carefully studied the RFE and suggested every possible way to for the employer to gather information to respond to this RFE and we helped them file it. With our office's help, the employer successfully passed the onsite audit and the I-360 religious visa got approved 2 months later. The employer is very happy about the approval and is also very proud that their temple has been finally recognized by USCIS as a true religious entity right during the onsite visit.
Wife Receives Green Card After Investigation into Marriage
A client from Mongolia married a U.S. citizen and filed her I-130 Petition/I-485 Application. She appeared for her interview with her husband who falsely accused his wife of marrying him solely to obtain a Green Card. Her application was then denied. She came to our firm for help. We conducted research and found out that our client had entered into a valid marriage with her husband, but he ended up draining her of all her financial resources. He also abused her both verbally and physically on many occasions during the marriage. It was apparent that her ex-husband was using her to get money and for his own physical pleasures. We filed an I-360 Petition for Battered and Abused Spouses of U.S. citizens based on the verbal and physical abuse she received during her marriage. We received a request for evidence asking for more documentation regarding the abuse that occurred during the marriage. We provided significant evidence including affidavits from friends and family, a psychological report, documents to show that her ex-husband took advantage of her financial resources, along with other evidence that questioned the character of our client's ex-husband. The I-360 Petition was approved, and now our client can apply for her Green Card.
R-1 Received After Denominational Discrepancy
Our Canadian client was an expert in faith, and his dedication to his case was a clear reflection of that. As a religious worker, our client first came to our office in early 2006 for an initial consultation regarding an R-1 visa based on a job offer from a local church. Before he came to our office, he had been receiving religious training on a J-1 visa with several religious groups in the United States. Unfortunately, there was a denomination discrepancy between the foreign religious organization our client used to work for and the prospective organization in the United States. After extensive research and a close study of our client's religious background and activities, we were able to successfully establish the affiliation between the two religious entities and thus, successfully secured an R-1 visa for our client. Two years following his service under the R-1 visa, we filed an I-360 for his immigration visa petition. In August 2008, the religious organization passed the on-site visit and the I-360 was approved two weeks later!
Youth Minister Gets Both R-1 and R-2 Approved in Under Two Weeks
Our Korean client was a Seminary student and was offered a job as a Youth Minister with a Korean Church. We saw an opportunity to file an R visa for him, but the problem was that he had not received his graduation certificate nor had he been ordained yet. In May 2007 we filed the R-1 visa petition for him and R-2 petition for his family. They asked us for additional evidence (RFE) which we responded by October 2007. Throughout the waiting period, we constantly followed up by updating information with our client and checking with USCIS. We were also checking if there would be onsite audit conducted by USCIS, as they often do in this kind of petitions. In July 2008, USCIS conducted an onsite audit, and in less than two weeks, both petitions R-1/R-2 for client and family got approved. Our client was very happy to be approved, having experienced the difficulty in getting an R-1 visa approved, given the reviewing procedures, RFE and audits that USCIS is conducting now for these cases.
I-360 Passed for Long Time Minister
In May 2007 we filed an I-360 (Religious Worker Immigrant Visa) petition, for a very nice Filipino client. He had a long history of service as a missionary and minister, and now he had been appointed to work in USA. Even with all his merits, USCIS requested more evidence that we were able to request and gather from overseas. Finally, in May 2008 the petition was approved and our client was able to continue with his service.
I-129 Petition Passed for Missionary
In April 2007 we filed and I-129 R-1/R-2 (Non-Immigrant Petition in the category of Religious Worker) for a Filipino missionary and minister. Our client's petition was approved in May 2008, with no request for additional evidence.
Family Gets 3 Years of Residential Validity
In February 2007 we filed R-1/R-2 (Religious Worker Visa and visa for his spouse and children) for a family of South Korean Nationals who had been residing in the U.S. for many years under an F student visa status. The case went through site audit, but we had all the supporting documents to back up the petition. We received the approvals today, valid for three years.
MTR Accepted After Tireless Work
R-1 Motion to Reopen (MTR): Client hired a local law firm to file her R-1 extension (Religious Worker Visa) in early 2007 and to do the Request for Evidence (RFE) response. However, USCIS never received the RFE response and the case was denied due to abandonment. After learning about our office, the client hired us. Our attorneys and paralegals worked without stop to timely file a MTR. The motion was granted and our client has been given extra time to facilitate more information on the case.