Center for Religious Immigration and Protection

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Minyoung Ohm is a staff attorney with the Religious Immigration Services Section of CLINIC.  Prior to joining CLINIC, she was an associate attorney at Carliner & Remes in Washington D.C. and practiced immigration law in a variety of areas, including asylum, family-based visa petitions, and business immigration matters.  She graduated from the American University’s Washington College of Law in 2003.

The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to go forth and preach the joy of the Gospel. At Pentecost, we recognize this special time to celebrate the missionary call. We are inspired by all who, like you, have heard this call and pursued their vocations, no matter the obstacles on their journey.

Obstacles of immigration status are all too familiar to foreign born religious workers like Sr. Maria. Having crossed the border into the United States at fourteen years old, Maria didn’t have the papers necessary to pursue her calling to religious life.

Rita Dhakal joined the Religious Immigration Section of CLINIC in June 2009.  She currently works with Attorney Megan Turngren to help to provide legal services to RIS clients.  In addition, Rita volunteers with Legal Services of Northern Virginia, where she interviews clients for case intake and placement for the Uncontested Divorce Clinic.

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In 1990, I was born in Mexico into a staunchly Roman Catholic family. When I was twelve years old, my immediate family illegally migrated to California.  We have lived there ever since.

Minyoung Ohm

It has been more than a year since the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.’s (CLINIC) Religious Immigration Services (RIS) section began taking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) cases.  Back on June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new process, granting relief to undocumented young people who came to the United States as children and do not have proper immigration documents.  This new program allowed these young people to have work authorization and stay in the country without the threat of deportation.

Sr. Mary Honorata, CSSF

Thanks to my Felician Congregation, and to CLINIC, who put tremendous work in my next applications, permissions, and visas, I can now serve my Lord, free of worries, in the place where He wants me to be.

Virtual Office Tour

Welcome to CLINIC

Lobby Area

 Bishops who have served as Chair of CLINIC’s Board of Directors

Main Conference Room

Small Conference Room

Staff Offices


Religious Immigration Services Represents Foreign Nationals from Around the World

We Are Honored to Represent Petitioning Archdioceses, Dioceses, and Religious Organizations All Across the United States

RIS Helps Foreign Born Religious Workers from Numerous Countries in the Western Hemisphere

We Also Have the Opportunity to Work with Religious Workers from Africa and Europe

RIS Also Representes Foreign-Born Religious Workers from Asia and Islands in the Pacific


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Client Feature: The Immigration Journey of Sr. Honorata Grzeszczuk

By Sr. Mary Honorata, CSSF

Felician Sisters

I received my Green Card last week and this is a good time to recall the whole process. I came to the United States in 2011.  I was born in Poland.  If someone told me a few years ago that I would be living in the United States, I would not believe them.  But, with time, it became more and more clear to me, that this was exactly where Jesus wanted me to be.  Felician Sisters have communities all around the world, but the two main countries we serve the Lord is in Poland and in the United States.  As a Felician Sister, I vowed to Almighty God to obey His will.  I desire to do so with all my heart.  However, when it became clear to me that to follow my vocation wholeheartedly I would have to leave my home country and join the community in North America, at first I didn’t feel comfortable with this.  My family, sisters and friends are in Poland. However, after a time of discernment and struggle, in order to follow what I felt is the will of God, I needed to move to the United States.

 This is the spiritual part of the story.  But there is also an organizational part – going to the United States is not so simple.  I knew that it is difficult to get a visa.  I attempted to fill out the visa application to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw.  At that time my English was poor and I was not able to fill out the online forms within allotted period of time.  (I believe it was 10 minutes or so.)  I remember the distress when several pages of my work online, with an open Polish-English dictionary, disappeared after the online form expired.  Actually, even with the dictionary, I didn’t fully understand some of the questions.  After this experience the Felician Congregation asked CLINIC to help me with the process.

 From the very beginning, I was amazed with the way the CLINIC lawyers were able to organize my documents from Washington.  I received a plan what I need to do, a list of documents to collect, and detailed instructions.  I felt their guidance when I went to the American Embassy in Warsaw, even though they were so far away.  The visit in the embassy went smoothly because of papers that were prepared by the CLINIC.

 I would like to give one example.  The clerk at the entrance to the embassy initially claimed that there were errors in my application.  Because of this allegation, I was denied to see the visa officer and apply for a visa.  I replied that the application was completed by a lawyer, so surely it was correct.  This still didn’t work.  I was only allowed to see the visa officer when I told them that the application was prepared in Washington, D.C. and offered that they could call my lawyer in Washington.  Then I received my visa.

 When I came to the United States I was not familiar with the immigration process.  I did not have a clue how long and expensive it is.  I only began to understand how difficult the immigration process is during the time I waited for the visa.  For six long months, I just waited.  I could not start a job because any employer I spoke with asked me how long I would be able to work.  I could not answer, and so I remained unemployed.  The uncertainty made the waiting time the most difficult in my life.  However, finally I was able to come to the United States.  Thanks to my Felician Congregation, and to CLINIC, who put tremendous work in my next applications, permissions, and visas, I am enjoying having my Green Card.  I can now serve my Lord, free of worries, in the place where He wants me to be. 

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RIS Staff Retreat - Fall 2013

By Nicole Bonjean

RIS Staff Attorney 


The Religious Immigration Services section held its first staff retreat on Thursday, October 10, 2013.  The nine staff members traveled as a group from our office in Silver Spring, Maryland, to The Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, Maryland.  The beautiful monastery of the Conventual Franciscan Friars was the perfect place for the gathering.  The retreat was an opportunity to reflect on the group’s challenges, achievements, and goals.  It was a great bonding experience in which we learned so much about each other.  Did you know attorney Megan Turngren used to be a sports writer?  That legal assistant Inda Setibudi speaks five languages?  Or that administrative assistant Tamika Vick is an expert roller skater?  Our staff truly enjoyed this experience as an opportunity to gain insight into each others’ lives, strengths, and to brainstorm on ways to improve our work so we can do the best job possible for our clients.  We look forward to taking more retreats in the future. 


For more information on The Shrine of St. Anthony, please visit their website.




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Extension of Stay Denials - When to Leave the U.S.

Once an extension of stay is denied, a foreign national must make plans to immediately depart the United States.  The Customs and Border Protection website offers guidance regarding how long a person can remain in the U.S. following the denial of the extension

 “USCIS generally allows you 30 days to depart the U.S. starting from the date on the letter notifying you of their decision to deny an extension.  If you do not depart within 30 days, you will be considered deportable. USCIS cautions that if you are refused permission to extend your stay, you may encounter problems with Consulates overseas the next time you apply for a U.S. visa because their computer records will indicate that you did not leave the U.S. within the time frame of your initial period of entry.  Be sure to keep your rejection letter and proof of the date of your departure (a boarding pass is the best thing, but passport stamps showing entry into another country is also helpful) to give the consulate the next time you apply for a new visa.  Having those may mitigate your apparent overstay and could improve your chances of renewing your visa without the five year restriction usually applied to people that have overstayed their visit.”


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Tips and Tricks for Accessing an Electronic I-94

By Megan S. Turngren

RIS Staff Attorney 


Beginning in May 2013, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stopped issuing paper I-94 cards and instead began requiring that the foreign national access the I-94 information on the CBP website.  For the past six months, both attorneys and foreign nationals have been working diligently to try to understand the new electronic I-94 system.



Under the new system, a foreign national will meet with an immigration officer upon entry.  As before, the officer will stamp the foreign national’s passport with the port of entry and date of arrival.  The CBP officer will also handwrite the admission symbol (i.e., “R-1”) and the date until which the foreign national is authorized to stay. However, the officer will not staple anything into the passport. Instead, the foreign national will be required (on their own) to print an electronic I-94 from the CBP website after arriving in the United States. 

As the process has evolved, foreign nationals have encountered numerous issues trying to access the electronic I-94 information online.  Finding the electronic I-94 information is often a game of trial and error.

As we have worked to understand the electronic I-94 program, we have found some ways to locate even the most hard-to-find electronic I-94s.


Verify that all information is entered accurately.

  • One simple data entry error will prevent the ability to access the electronic I-94.

Check that the correct passport information is entered.

  • Sometimes a foreign national will obtain a new passport while they are outside the U.S.  When they return, it is possible to erroneously enter the previous passport number.  Always ensure that the most up-to-date information is being used.  However, that being said, if the information cannot be accessed using the new (correct) passport data, enter the previous passport data.  The information could have been incorrectly entered by a CBP officer, especially if the foreign national had a visa in their previously-issued passport.

Consider multiple entry options for the passport number.

  • If the passport number includes the date the passport was issued, try removing these digits when you enter the information into the CBP data entry form. This issue has been very common when accessing I-94 information for individuals with a Mexican passport.  If the foreign national has a Mexican passport, try entering the passport number without the first two numbers listed in the passport number. 
  • Also, verify the passport number used when the foreign national submitted the DS-160 application online as part of the R-1 visa process.  If there was a typographical error in the DS-160, try accessing the electronic I-94 information using the exact same number that was listed in the DS-160 form.

Attempt to enter the name in a different format.

  • In some countries, the first name may be written as the last name on the passport.  Due to this issue, we often see issues relating to how the name is used when accessing the electronic I-94. 
  • The passport may list a first and middle name, but the electronic I-94 may be entered listing both names as the first name.  Alternatively, the middle name might not be included in the electronic I-94.  If you are having difficulty finding the I-94, it is important to try different formats of the name to try to access the information.
  • Also, if the name is hyphenated, try to access the information using the name with the hyphen.  However, if it cannot be accessed this way, remove the hyphen and try again.  Likewise, if the name has a space on the passport, try entering the name without a space on the electronic I-94 data form. 
  • The foreign national’s name may be spelled differently on the passport and visa.  While CBP officers typically use the information provided on the passport, they may also enter the information provided on the visa.


The CBP website also provides tips to access the electronic I-94 information online


If you cannot access the electronic I-94 information online, it is important to take the next step and visit the local CBP deferred inspection office.  The CBP website has information about local deferred inspection offices, including the address and hours of operation.   Be sure to contact the local deferred inspection site in advance of driving to the office to determine if they handle I-94 matters on a specific date or at a specific time. 

Although the process for accessing the electronic I-94 may be confusing at times, it is imperative that a foreign national attempt to access the information as soon as he or she enters the United States.  Please remember that the date stamped in the passport is NOT the I-94 expiration date.  In fact, the two dates are not always the same.  The electronic I-94 is the document that authorizes the foreign national’s legal stay inside the United States. 

Special Caution to Frequent Travelers: Please note that the electronic I-94 will not be available after a foreign national exits the United States on a subsequent trip abroad. This can potentially be very problematic for clients who frequently travel abroad for missionary purposes.  To avoid any hassles, it’s best to print out the I-94 as soon as possible once in the United States.

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Religious Workers Regulations: Five Years Later

By Miguel A. Naranjo

Director, Religious Immigration Services


In 2008, the federal government made major changes to the Religious Worker Visa Program. Prior to the changes, the Religious Worker program was already facing increased scrutiny.  It became increasingly obvious that proposals to dramatically alter the regulations would just be a matter of time.  The main concern by the federal government was the issue of fraud in the category. The government was determined to make the immigration process more rigorous and burdensome for any religious organization seeking to bring foreign-born religious workers to the U.S.  In the Religious Immigration Services (RIS) section of CLINIC, we were acutely aware of the pending changes and, in the fall of 2008, the federal government announced the revised regulations. These laws are still the current process being followed by the federal government today. 


The startling effect of the regulation changes is readily apparent in a review of the Department of State (DOS) R-1 Visas records from 2008 to 2012.  In FY 2008, the DOS reported 17,078 R-1 visa applications received at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.  That same year it granted 10,061 R-1 visas; thus showing an approval rate of approximately 60 percent.  The following year in FY 2009, with the new regulations/changes to the R-1 Religious Worker Visa program, the number of R-1 visa applications filed dramatically fell to 6,208 worldwide (down 65 percent from the previous year) and only 2,771 R-1 visas were granted, an approval rate of approximately 45 percent.



Many dioceses and religious communities initially struggled in adjusting to the revised religious worker regulations.  Though the number of R-1 visa applications filed is still down from FY 2008, the approval rate of the R-1 visa has been steadily rising each year since the new regulations took effect.  Despite the fact that the overall process of sponsoring international religious worker remains difficult, we are finally seeing a positive trend in the figures reported by the Department of State.


Moving forward in 2014, dioceses, religious communities, and other religious organizations should consider developing or updating an immigration policy for its international religious workers.  The following should be considered:


  • Assigning trained support or experienced legal counsel to handle religious immigration matters minimizes issues/problems.  Immigration law requires careful planning and attention to detail.  We strongly encourage dioceses, religious communities, and other religious organizations to use in-house counsel, local immigration attorneys who are knowledgeable about religious immigration, or CLINIC.


  • In dealing with the federal government, always expect the unexpected.  Immigration cases can be erroneously denied or are delayed with no explanation.


  • Keep up-to-date personnel records of international clergy and other religious workers serving in the Diocese (where are they assigned, his/her immigration status, compensation/benefit records, etc).


  • The immigration service (USCIS) requires sponsors of R-1 religious workers to notify USCIS within 14 days of when the religious worker is terminated or leaves employment.  This is required by law.


Additionally, with the strict regulations in place, the religious immigration process requires careful consideration from the very start of the petition.  Some of the important questions to consider are:


  • Who should sponsor an R-1 religious worker? A parish, diocese, religious community, etc?


  • Should we sponsor a religious worker for permanent residence, and if so, when?


  • What is our policy on accepting international religious workers who transfer from one organization to our organization?


  • Who should sponsor religious vocations (religious brothers and sisters) serving our Diocese?


  • How are we prepared to handle immigration service "site visits?"


The most current immigration issues for religious organizations include immigration site visits and comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).   As part of the revised Religious Worker Visa Program in 2008, the federal government now conducts fraud investigation site visits of sponsors and beneficiaries of R-1 visas.  In addition, Congress may still enact CIR, so organizations should be discussing how to prepare for potential changes to immigration law.


While the Religious Worker Program changed dramatically and is now more challenging, the Religious Immigration Services section of CLINIC remains committed to helping religious organizations and religious workers navigate through the complicated immigration process of the R-1 category.  If you need help with religious worker immigration law, please contact us at 301-565-4832.

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Megan Sahar Turngren

On Election Day, it can seem like a burden to wake up early and stand in line at your local polling place, but the ability to vote is a prized benefit of citizenship and an important step in the journey to full integration in the United States. The benefits of citizenship are numerous and the CLINIC network has long advocated naturalization for all eligible permanent residents.

Nonimmigrant Religious Workers: Requirements, Process and Practice Pointers

November 15, 2012
Nonimmigrant Religious Workers: Requirements, Process and Practice Pointers  

2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time 

11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time
Cost: $50; $25 for CLINIC Affiliates paying annual dues 

This webinar will cover the requirements for R-1 nonimmigrant status, the process for filing an I-129 petition with USCIS and the process for obtaining an R-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. Issues to be discussed include: maintaining and extending status, compensation of the R-1 beneficiary, travel issues and USCIS site visits. The webinar will be presented by Anne Marie Gibbons, Director, Center for Religious Immigration and Protection, CLINIC; Miguel Naranjo, Managing Attorney, Center for Religious Immigration and Protection, CLINIC; and Kristina Karpinski, Training and Legal Support Attorney, CLINIC.


After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information on joining the webinar.   For additional information contact Dinah Suncin at

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Planning Effective Know Your Rights Presentations for Communities Facing Immigration Enforcement

The Immigration Advocates Network, Families for Freedom and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild invite you to join a free webinar:

 “Planning Effective Know Your Rights Presentations for Communities Facing Immigration Enforcement”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2:00-3:30 pm EDT 

This webinar will train advocates on the essential elements of Know Your Rights presentations to educate immigrant communities about potential enforcement actions. In addition, it will provide practical steps that communities can take before, during and after an enforcement action. The panelists will focus on how to best present information so that immigrant communities can be prepared to effectively respond to enforcement actions resulting in detention or potential removal. The webinar will also provide attendees with resources that are appropriate for distribution during Know Your Rights presentations. Panelists include Paromita Shah, Associate Director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and Manisha Vaze, an organizer for Families for Freedom. IAN Director Natalie Sullivan will serve as the moderator. This webinar is made possible through the generous support of the Four Freedoms Fund.

To register for this free webinar, visit After registering you will receive a confirmation email with information on joining the webinar. If you have any questions, please email us at

Families for Freedom is a New York-based multi-ethnic defense network by and for immigrants facing and fighting deportation. For more information, visit The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild is a national non-profit that provides legal and technical support to immigrant communities, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking to advance the rights of noncitizens. For more information, visit The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative project of the ABA Commission on Immigration, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, ASISTA, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Immigration Law Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Pro Bono Net, and The Advocates for Human Rights. For more information about IAN, visit


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Adjustment of Status for U Nonimmigrants

Adjustment of Status for U Nonimmigrants

August 30, 2011

2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time
Cost: $50; Free for CLINIC affiliates paying annual dues 


U Nonimmigrant Status for victims of crime offers a pathway to lawful permanent residence.  The presenters will discuss the eligibility requirements, special issues related to derivative family members and the process of applying for adjustment of status as a U nonimmigrant.  Sarah Bronstein and Debbie Smith, Training and Legal Support Attorneys with CLINIC, and Sarah Flagel, BIA Accredited Representative at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago will present this webinar.


 Non-affiliates can register by clicking here.

 Click here for complimentary webinar registration (log in required)

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information on joining the webinar.


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Prosecutorial Discretion: What it Is and How and When to Use It

Prosecutorial Discretion: What it Is and How and When to Use It

August 16, 2011

2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time
Cost: $50; Free for CLINIC affiliates paying annual dues

Please join us for a webinar on "Prosecutorial Discretion: What it Is and How and When to Use It" on August 16, 2011. This webinar will examine the June 17, 2011 Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion, including what prosecutorial discretion may provide, how to evaluate circumstances in which it may be appropriate, and what recent ICE practice is in light of the Memo.  The trainers for this webinar are Mary Kenney, Senior Attorney at the American Immigration Counsel (AIC), and author of the practice admivsory, "Prosecutorial Discretion: How to Advocate for your Client",  and Debbie Smith, Attorney at Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC). 

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information on joining the webinar. 

 Non-affiliates can register by clicking here.

Click here for complimentary webinar registration (log in required)

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