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U.S. Immigration Changes to Religious Work Visa Requirements INA §101(a)(27)(C) and INA §101(a)(15)

New Hurdles for Religious Workers – Religious Visas

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) passed a new law for immigrant and nonimmigrant religious workers in November 2008 which significantly affects religious non-profit organizations.

Foreign religious workers may be admitted to the United States as permanent resident special immigrants under INA §101(a)(27)(C) or as nonimmigrants under INA §101(a)(15)(R).  Some of the qualifications to achieve religious worker status includes the following:

1.  The applicant must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide, nonprofit religious organization in the United Sates for at least two years preceding the application.

2. He or she also must intend to work either as a minister of the denomination,or in a religious occupation or vocation for a bona fide, nonprofit religious organization (see INA §§101(a)(15)(R), (a)(27)(C) and 8 CFR §§204.5(m), 214.2(r)).

3.  Non-Immigrant. An R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker must be the beneficiary of an approved I-129 nonimmigrant worker petition filed by a qualifying religious organization.

4. Permanent Immigrant. A religious worker seeking permanent residence as a special immigrant religious worker must be the beneficiary of an approved I-360 Special Immigrant religious worker petition, but a foreign worker seeking special immigrant religious worker status may submit a self-petition or have a religious organization submit a petition on his or her behalf.

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