Visas for immigrant religious workers
Applying for a Religious Visa in Los Angeles
This type of visa will allow you to obtain the Green Card for you, your spouse and your unmarried children under 21 years old.
This visa for the Green Card is similar to the R-1 temporary religious visa, but is more difficult to obtain. Therefore, if you want to come to the United States to perform duties in a religious organization, you might consider first coming on the R-1 temporary visa, and then if appropriate, later applying for the Religious Visa for the Green Card.
This visa does not require the lengthy Labor Certification process (which could take several years), and therefore, is considerably quicker to obtain than many other types of Green Cards. This way of getting the Green Card may not be available in the very near future. It is expected to ‘sunset’ or expire. Unless Congress extends the provisions of law allowing this visa, it will no longer be available.
For at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition, the person “has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide, nonprofit, religious organization in the United States,” and seeks to enter the U.S.
- to work full time (35 hours) in a compensated position,
§ solely to carry on his or her vocation as a minister or
- to work for a bona fide, nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. or its affiliate in the U.S.
The person has been working as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation, either abroad or in lawful status in the U.S. for at least the 2–year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition. If any part of the 2-year period was unauthorized employment in the U.S., it interrupts the 2-year period, but the 2 years may be restarted. Once the 2 years is established and the I-360 is approved, if the applicant is out of status less than 180 days at that point, he or she may adjust under INA §245(k). The 2-year prior religious work need not correspond precisely to the type of work to be performed.
The applicant may have a break in the 2-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition as long as: (i) the applicant was still employed as a religious worker; (ii) the break did not exceed 2 years; (iii) the nature of the break was for further religious training or for sabbatical that did not involve unauthorized work in the U.S.; and (iv) the applicant was a member of the petitioner’s denomination throughout the 2 years of qualifying employment.
F-1 studies in the U.S. may be considered carrying on the vocation “if it can be demonstrated that such study is consistent with the … ministerial vocation and provided that the [minister] continues to perform the duties of a minister of religion.”
The religious work for the two prior years must be continuous, and some cases support the position that it need not be full-time for the 2-year period.