To be eligible for a green card in the religious worker category, you must:
- Have been a member of a bona fide non-profit religious denomination for at least two years prior to the filing of form I-360;
- Have been working continuously for the past two years immediately prior to filing the immigrant petition: As a religious minister in a religious vocation either professional or non-professional capacity, or in a religious occupation either professional or nonprofessional capacity; and
- Seek to enter the United States solely to carry out such religious occupation of the employer’s denomination
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- Final Rule for Special Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Religious Workers (USCIS) – (11-26-08)
- Supplemental Questions and Answers: Final Religious Worker Rule – (1-6-09)
- USCIS Publishes Final Rule for Religious Worker Visa Classifications (11-21-08)
To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, you must be entering the United States to work:
- As a minister or priest of the religious denomination;
- In a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization (a professional capacity means that a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent is required to do this job); or
- In a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization or its nonprofit affiliate. (A religious vocation means a calling or devotion to religious life. Taking vows can prove that you have a calling to religious life. A religious occupation is an activity devoted to traditional religious functions. Examples of religious occupations include (but are not limited to) cantors, missionaries, and religious instructors).
You must have been performing this religious work for the past two years. For more specific eligibility information, please see 8 CFR § 204.5.
You or your employer must submit USCIS Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant). The application must be filed at the USCIS Regional Service Center that serves the area where you will work. You must also submit:
- Proof that the religious organization qualifies as a non-profit organization
- A letter from an official of the religious organization in the United States:
- The letter should establish that you have been a member of the denomination for two years, and that you have at least two years of experience in your religious vocation or occupation.
- If you are a minister, the letter should establish that you have been authorized to perform.
- If you are a religious professional, the letter should establish that you have a United States baccalaureate degree or the foreign equivalent that is required for your religious profession. You must also submit an official academic record.
- If you are applying to work in the United States in another religious vocation or occupation, the letter should establish that you are qualified to work in that religious vocation or occupation. For instance, if you are applying to work as a nun or a monk, you would need to provide evidence that you are a nun or a monk.
- If you are applying to work in the United States in a non-ministerial or non-professional capacity for a religious organization affiliated with a religious denomination, the letter should establish how the religious organization is affiliated with the denomination.
- The letter should also detail how you will be carrying on the work of a minister, or how you will be paid if you are working in a professional or other religious capacity. The letter should indicate that you will not be dependent upon supplementary income (from a second job) or charity (funds solicited for your support).
Special Immigrant Religious Workers: Additional Resources
- AAO Non-Precedent Decisions Regarding Special Immigrant Religious Workers
- Third Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms District Court Ruling Invalidating Religious Worker Regulation (4-7-15)
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening a firm specializing exclusively in US immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.
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