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.
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.
By Miguel Naranjo
At this time of the year I always find myself reflecting on the past 11 months. I look back at the things we accomplished, the things that did not turn out so well, and on how we might do things differently in the New Year. In addition, I also feel grateful for many things in life, including how fortunate I am to be working at CLINIC with the Religious Immigration Services (RIS) section.
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a major immigration policy change that would grant millions of individuals (without legal status in the U.S.) temporary stay from deportation and the opportunity to apply for work authorization. This administrative relief would be valid for three years. The executive action contains several initiatives including:
Robyn McCormick joined the Religious Immigration Section of CLINIC in June 2014. She is working with Attorney Kate Kuznetsova to help provide legal services to RIS clients.
As you may be aware, 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.
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.
This summer, several attorneys in the Religious Immigration Section of CLINIC had the opportunity to travel and meet with their clients. The funding for this special endeavor was provided by a grant from the Open Society Foundation. These trips provided the attorneys with the chance to meet with clients, provide information regarding religious worker immigration and the need for immigration reform, and also help to foster understanding of CLINIC’s mission.
Attorney Kate Kuznetsova
My immigration story started in 2002 when I decided to come to United States from Sri Lanka to do my higher studies. Even applying for a Student visa was not easy. There was much paperwork and proofs of financial support and so many other documents I had to present to the embassy to get my F1 visa. I remember sitting there in the waiting room very nervous for the first time for the visa interview. Out of the thirty or so people who showed up that morning for visa interviews, there were only three of us who got their visas.
I believe that dreams come true and that a good dream becomes true life. Without dreams, all we have is reality. Sometimes on our most important dreams, all we can do is give them our best shot, hope for the highest good, and let go. Knowing I could use all the help available, I contacted CLINIC to fulfill my dream in becoming a Citizen of United States of America.
By: Megan S. Turngren
With multiple agencies issuing different immigration paperwork for the R-1 process, it can often be difficult to understand the importance of each document. However, even though it may seem complicated, it is always very important to note the expiration dates of the I-129 approval notice, the R-1 visa, and the I-94. In many cases, these three items will each have different expiration dates. This discrepancy is due to the fact that each of these documents is issued by a different government agency.
I was born in Managua, Nicaragua, the second of 5 children. I was about 15 months old when I had my first contact with the United States of America. This happened through my father returning home after spending a year at the University of Florida, Gainsville in a graduate course of Sanitary Engineering. He admired this country and its people and he taught his wife and children to love and admire it too. I remember that he used to shave early in the morning while listening to Good Morning America and the voice of the United States of America.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Update
With the Senate passing its immigration bill last June and the House currently working on its own legislation, comprehensive immigration reform is a likely reality. Although legislation is far from final, the expected overhaul will certainly have a monumental impact on all facets of immigration law.
What Are You Doing to Prepare for CIR?
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.
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.
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.
By Miguel A. Naranjo
Director, Religious Immigration Services