Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC
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Immigration for religious workers

As some California residents may know, foreign nationals who are religious workers might immigrate to the United States if certain conditions are met. In addition, the worker's spouse and children are allowed to accompany them.

This immigration classification includes both non-ministers and ministers in religious organizations and falls under an employment-based or EB-4 visa. Such religious occupations or vocations must be considered full-time compensated positions that average 35 hours per week, which might or might not involve a salary. The work may be of either a non-professional or a professional nature.

Other qualifications for this EB-4 visa include that the worker was a member of the religious sect with a non-profit status in the country for two years preceding the application. In addition, the worker is required to have worked in a religious professional or nonprofessional position for two years. The work may be different from the job for which the application is made. In addition, the worker may have stopped working in the original position but must remain a member of the same religious group and was not without work for more than two years.

No quota exists for ministers. However, for religious workers who are not ministers, there is a yearly quota. At the current time, the quota is set at 5,000 workers per fiscal year. A public law to extend the program for religious workers who are not ministers was signed by the president in 2012 that will last until Sept. 30, 2015. The end date does not apply to ministers.

Religious workers who may be interested in immigrating to the United States must file form I-360 along with proof of denomination and tax-exempt status. The worker may benefit from the advice of employment immigration attorneys who may assist in filing within pertinent time limits.

Source: U.S. CIS, "Special Immigrant Religious Workers," Accessed on Jan. 21, 2015

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