Updates for Religious Workers With Pending I-485 Applications

Last Updated

June 23, 2023

In 2022, the Religious Immigration Services (RIS) section filed many I-485 Adjustment of Status Applications, or step two of the permanent residence process, for religious workers. This was mainly due to so many I-360 Special Immigrant Petitions, or step one of the permanent residence process, being approved during that time. Though the processing times for the I-485 application were unpredictable then, a recent update from the Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the immigrant visa quota (limit) will lead to additional processing delays.

On March 22, 2023, the DOS and USCIS released the April 2023 Visa Bulletin showing the immigrant visa (permanent resident visa) availability starting on April 1, 2023. Beginning this date, the priority dates for the religious worker permanent residence program retrogressed to Sept. 1, 2018. The priority date is the date the I-360 petition was filed with USCIS. There is an annual limit on the number of immigrant visas the government can issue each fiscal year, and when the number of I-485 applications filed exceeds that limit, the government must begin controlling or limiting the availability of those immigrant visas. The result of this update means only those religious workers with a priority date BEFORE Sept. 1, 2018, may file and have their I-485 application adjudicated.

As mentioned, in 2022 we saw many I-360 petitions approved. However, nearly all those petitions have more recent priority dates (from 2021 and 2022). For those applicants fortunate to have filed I-485 applications, they should continue to have their applications processed. According to the USCIS Policy Manual, 7 USCIS-PM A.6 (C)(5):

If an officer encounters a case in which a visa was available at time of filing but is not available at time of final adjudication, the case should be retained, pre-processed, and adjudicated up to the point of final approval.

This is exactly what is happening right now with pending I-485 applications. While the adjustment of status (AOS) process is pending, USCIS should continue to issue employment authorization documents (EAD cards) and advance parole (AP) travel documents. In addition, we continue to see biometric appointment notices being issued and requests for further evidence (RFE) being sent as part of the AOS process. Those applicants with EAD cards and AP documents should note the expiration dates of those documents and make sure to timely renew them as necessary as it may take a very long time before a final decision is made on their I-485 application. Therefore, it is recommended that EAD cards and AP documents be renewed as early as possible to avoid gaps in employment and travel time. The earliest they can be filed is six months in advance of their expiration dates. For more information about this update and your pending AOS case, please contact your RIS attorney.