Changes soon will go into effect for a unique visa program that allows religious workers to immigrate to the U.S. or adjust their status to obtain legal permanent residency. This is an employment-based, fourth-preference visa program that permits both ministers and non-ministers to enter the U.S. to perform full-time, paid religious work. The federal government historically has restricted the number of non-minister religious workers able to obtain visas under this program to 5,000 per fiscal year. However, the federal government has placed no such restrictions on ministers and their spouses. As of September 30, 2019, the non-minister program is scheduled to end altogether, following a final extension of the program that President Trump signed on February 15, 2019.
As a result of the expiration of this visa program, non-ministers who want to immigrate to the U.S. or seek a green card must do so before September 30, 2019. This sunset date also applies to spouses and children who accompany non-minister religious workers to the U.S. Ministers who hold these visas are not affected by this date.
Several different criteria affect which religious workers qualify for this program. For instance, workers must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Workers must have been a member of a bona fide religious group for at least two years before their applications and continuously be engaged in religious work as an adult
- Bonafide religious groups must be non-profit organizations in the U.S. or organizations affiliated with religious denominations in the U.S.
- All religious work in the U.S. must be full-time, averaging at least 35 hours per week, and paid
- Workers can be employed in a professional or non-professional capacity
The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 399-2311 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.