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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.
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Read about two interns' experiences working at CLINIC.

The USCIS published a proposed rule in the Federal register on July 22, 2015 that would expand the current provisional waiver program in two significant ways. The agency is allowing the public 60 days to comment on the proposed regulatory change. The provisional waiver program is currently open only to immediate relatives who, upon leaving the United States to consular process, will trigger the three- or ten-year bar for unlawful presence.

While major reform of the US immigration system seems to be at a standstill, issues of immigration policy are very much at the forefront of political debates. The 12th annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference will offer timely policy and legal analysis and discussion on key immigration topics including executive action, detention policies, Central American migration, state and local initiatives, and a global perspective on refugees. Panels will feature government officials, researchers, advocates, and other immigration experts.

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