USCIS recently announced that the suspension of premium processing of R-1 Visa applications for religious workers has been extended until July 8, 2008. The initial six-month suspension of this service was first announced in Jun 2007. According to USCIS, because of the complexity of adjudicating R-1 visas, the organization is still assessing whether they can provide a 15-day processing service for these petitions.
In April of last year, USCIS proposed a range of revisions to its regulations for processing R-1 religions worker visa petitions aimed at eliminating fraud in that visa program. In addition, current established practices and procedures involved in the adjudication process include inspections, evaluations, verifications and compliance reviews, all of which exceed the time restraints imposed by a 15-day premium processing guarantee.
USCIS notes that, in the future, if it is able to ensure R-1 visa petitions can be adequately adjudicated in 15 days, the premium processing service for this visa category will again be made active.