MATTER OF V-A-B-A-
Non-Precedent Decision of the
Administrative Appeals Office
APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA SERVICE CENTER DECISION
PETITION: FORM 1-360, PETITION FOR AMERASIAN, WIDOW(ER), OR SPECIAL
The Petitioner, a Buddhist temple, seeks to classify the Beneficiary as a special immigrant religious
worker to perform services as a monk. See Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act) section
203(b)(4), 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(4). The special immigrant religious worker classification allows
qualifying non-profit religious organizations to employ foreign nationals as ministers, in religious
vocations, or in religious occupations in the United States.
The Director of the California Service Center denied the petition, finding that the Petitioner did not
establish that the Beneficiary had the requisite two years of continuous, compensated religious work
On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the Beneficiary performed compensated, qualifying religious
work for the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition and submits additional
evidence in support of its assertion.
Upon de novo review, we will dismiss the appeal.
Non-profit religious organizations may petition for foreign nationals to immigrate to the United
States to perform full-time, compensated religious work as ministers, in religious vocations, or in
religious occupations. The petitioning organizations must establish that the foreign national
beneficiary meets certain eligibility criteria, including membership in a religious denomination and
continuous religious work experience for at least the 2-year period before the petition filing date.
Foreign nationals may self-petition for this classification. See generally section 203(b )(4) of the Act
(providing classification to qualified special immigrant religious workers as described in section
10l(a)(27)(C) ofthe Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(C)).
The implementing regulation at 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(m) provides that in order to be eligible for
classification as a special immigrant religious worker, a foreign national must:
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(2) Be coming to the United States to work in a full time (average of at least 35 hours
per week) compensated position in one of the following occupations as they are
defined in paragraph (m)(5) of this section:
(i) Solely in the vocation of a minister of that religious denomination;
(ii) A religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or
(iii)A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity.
( 4) Have been working in one of the positions described in paragraph (m)(2) of this
section ... after the age of 14 years continuously for at least the two-year period
immediately preceding the filing of the petition. The prior religious work need
not correspond precisely to the type of work to be performed. A break in the
continuity of the work during the preceding two years will not atlect eligibility so
(i) The alien was still employed as a religious worker;
(ii) The break did not exceed two years; and
(iii)The nature of the break was for further religious training or for sabbatical that
did not involve unauthorized work in the United States. However, the alien
must have been a member of the petitioner's denomination throughout the two
years of qualifying employment.
The regulation at 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(m)(ll) addresses the evidentiary requirements to establish prior
religious work experience. It provides:
Evidence relating to the alien's prior employment. Qualifying prior experience
during the two years immediately preceding the petition or preceding any acceptable
break in the continuity of the religious work, must have occurred after the age of
14 ... If the alien was employed in the United States during the two years
immediately preceding the filing of the application and:
(i) Received salaried compensation, the petitioner must submit IRS [Internal
Revenue Service] documentation that the alien received a salary, such as an
IRS Form W-2 [Wage and Tax Statement] or certified copies of income tax
Matter of V-A-B-A-
(ii) Received non-salaried compensation, the petitioner must submit IRS
documentation of the non-salaried compensation if available.
(iii)Received no salary but provided for his or her own support, and provided
support for any dependents, the petitioner must show how support was
maintained by submitting with the petition additional documents such as
audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account
statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other verifiable evidence
acceptable to USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services].
If the alien was employed outside the United States during such two years, the
petitioner must submit comparable evidence of the religious work.
As noted above, the Petitioner must establish that the Beneficiary has been working as a minister, in a
religious vocation, or in a religious occupation in a full-time, compensated position for at least the
two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition. 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(m)(2), (4). In this
case, the petition was filed on January 19, 2017. Therefore, the Petitioner must demonstrate that the
Beneficiary has the requisite two years of qualifying prior work experience from January 19, 2015,
through January 19, 2017. After a review of the entire record, including the evidence submitted on
appeal, we do not find the Petitioner has submitted sufficient evidence that the Beneficiary has two
years of compensated, continuous work experience immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
The Petitioner has described the Beneficiary's employment history during the relevant two years as
follows: from the beginning of the qualifying period until August 2015, the Beneficiary served the
in Illinois; from August 2015 to May 2016, he
served in Vietnam; from June to October 2016, he again served the temple
m and from November 2016 onward, he served the Petitioner. The Petitioner now seeks to
continue employing the Beneficiary as a Buddhist monk. It has repeatedly affirmed that the
Beneficiary receives and will continue to receive non-salaried compensation consisting of housing,
food, and living expenses. The Petitioner specified in Part 9, Question 6, of the petition that it
provides "food, room and board, health care, transportation, book, and all other kinds of Monk's
The Director issued a request for evidence (RFE) asking for, among other things, IRS documentation
of the claimed non-salaried compensation and specifically noting that if such evidence is not
available, the Petitioner must submit other documentation to support its assertions regarding the past
compensation. The response included support letters from the Petitioner and the Beneficiary's
previous employers, describing his religious work in Vietnam and service as an R-1 nonimmigrant
religious worker in prior to his transfer to the petitioning temple. In the Director's
subsequent denial, she found that the support letters from the Petitioner and Vietnam temple
described the Beneficiary's compensation without providing IRS documentation, clarifying whether
Matter of V-A-B-A-
such evidence was unavailable, or submitting comparable evidence for his employment outside the
United States,. In addition, she noted that the letter from the temple did not detail how the
Beneficiary was supported during his work at their temple.
On appeal, the Petitioner references Buddhist guidance material concerning the prohibition against
monks receiving money and explains that they are instead compensated with food, clothing, and
shelter from the temple. The Petitioner further contends that: 1) the Beneficiary's R-1 approval to
work at the temple demonstrates USCIS acceptance of his compensation arrangement, and
2) that "when compensation is not monetary in nature, the proof that we can provide [is] our pictures
of him living and working at the temples."
As supporting evidence, the Petitioner submits copies of photographs with notations indicating that
they show the Beneficiary's living quarters in and at the Petitioner's premises and depict
him working at the Vietnam temple. An additional letter from the temple further details the
Beneficiary' s previous work; attests that it provided room, board, and living expenses to him; and
claims that the pictures demonstrate this compensation. The Petitioner does not clarify, however, the
unavailability of IRS documentation to show the claimed non-salaried compensation from the
petitioning and temples or comparable evidence from the Vietnam temple. Further, the
provided photographs alone do not constitute sufficient evidence to support assertions that the
Beneficiary continuously received housing from his employers throughout the two-year period. We
also note that in the RFE response, the petitioning and Vietnam temples provided descriptions of the
Beneficiary's compensation, each stating "our temple provides shelter, books, food and boarding,
sangha uniform, transportation, healthcare and petty cash," without submitting examples of the
purported compensation, such as evidence of the healthcare policy covering the Beneficiary,
financial documents showing the disbursal of his petty cash, or receipts for books purchased for him.
Concerning the contention that the Beneficiary' s p