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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.

An important part of the immigration process of sponsoring international religious workers to the U.S. involves a site visit from USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). This is required per the immigration regulations and is used to verify the elements of the petition filed by the sponsor (including sponsor and beneficiary information, work location, etc.). These site visits may occur with advance notice or without any notice at all. Also, a successful site visit is a prerequisite for the sponsor’s ability to file I-129 petitions for nonimmigrant religious workers via premium processing.
Picture of Interns Joe and Emily
Read about two interns' experiences working at CLINIC.

By Minyoung Ohm

RIS Attorney


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.