Each year, the RIS staff spends time together to plan ahead for the next year. Through this two-day brainstorming session in November, team members discussed ways to improve RIS, in part by working more closely with other sections within CLINIC, as well as ways to increase our social media presence.
More than two dozen participants from as far away as Missouri, Texas and Nebraska met the staff of Religious Immigration Services in Garden Grove, California, in October for a day-long training in religious immigration.
The group included practitioners from Catholic Charities agencies and private firms as well as priests and religious, representing dioceses or religious communities.
Chris Ross joined CLINIC in January 2015. Prior to joining RIS, he worked on immigration policy. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and is a member of the Maryland State Bar.
There are many concerns about how immigration policy will change and evolve in the U.S. in 2017. There will be a new administration and new staff responsible for managing the laws, regulations and policies of our country. International religious workers serving the church in the U.S. will not be immune from changes that may occur.
A new schedule of filing fees from USCIS takes effect Dec. 23, 2016. Applications or petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed on or after Dec. 23, 2016 must include the new fee. Below is a list of the most common petitions and applications used by religious workers and the current and new fee schedule:
|Form||Current Fee||New Fee – 12/23/2016|
Miguel Naranjo, director of CLINIC’s Religious Immigration Service, has written a short analysis of the implications of the State Department’s May Visa Bulletin, released on April 12.
International religious workers in the U.S. and abroad who are in the process of applying for permanent residence may experience significant case processing delays in the next several months, according to the State Department’s Visa Bulletin for May 2016.
On September 30th, 2015, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR), a stop-gap measure which continues funding the government at current levels and keeps the government open until December 11, 2015. The CR reauthorized the Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Program as well as three other immigration-related programs, the Conrad 30 Program, the EB-5 Program, and the E-Verify Program until December 11, 2015. Finding a more permanent extension for the Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Program remains an ongoing issue for CLINIC Advocacy.
The non-minister permanent residence program that includes religious brothers and sisters (religious vocations) and other non-minister religious positions (religious occupations) is scheduled to expire on 09/30/2015 unless it is renewed by Congress. If past experience is an indicator, we have every reason to believe that the program will be extended as it has been renewed several times.
On July 5, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a policy memo declaring that the “lawful status” requirements of the immigrant regulations for religious workers would no longer be considered when adjudicating the I-360 immigrant petition. In addition, USCIS will amend Title 8 CFR Sec. 204.5(m)(4) and (11) and remove the lawful status requirements from the immigrant regulations for religious workers. Prior to this change, to be eligible for permanent residence a religious worker needed to demonstrate that he/she had at least two years of experience (as a religious worker) and if that experience was gained in the U.S., the religious worker must have shown that he/she maintained lawful status (and work authorization) during that time. With this announcement, the lawful status requirement is eliminated and USCIS will not deny religious worker I-360 petitions on this basis.