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Applying for special immigrant religious worker status

Religious workers often find that their work takes them across national borders to California and other areas of the United States. They are often eligible for special visas that allow them to live in the U.S. if they are planning to continue their religious work within the country.

Religious workers can apply for employment-based visas if they meet several requirements. Obtaining employment-based visas allows people from other nations to move to the U.S. or to change their status if they are already in the country legally.

Special immigrant religious workers are generally people who have been members of their religions for at least two years prior to their application for an employment-based visa. Their organization must be a non-profit religious organization in the U.S., and they must be planning to work exclusively as a minister or other religious worker. Their employer must be a religious organization or an associated organization, such as a charity organization affiliated with a church. They must have been working for their organization in a full-time position for which they received compensation for at least two years.

Certain exceptions may apply to applicants for employment-based visas. While there is no cap on how many ministers may receive employment-based visas, only 5,000 non-minister religious workers may receive them each year. People who have been religious workers for fewer than two years are ineligible unless the gap in their work history occurred because they were seeking other religious employment or training.

People with specialty occupations may have difficulty with the applications, documents and interviews associated with obtaining visas. Immigration attorneys may be able to advocate for immigrants in interviews and help them obtain documents from their employers or other entities to ensure their applications are completed correctly.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber