Religious workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico are unable to submit an adjustment of status or immigrant visa application at this time.
Beginning with the January 2017 Visa Bulletin, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began using the Chart A Final Action Dates chart to determine when workers can complete the permanent residency process. Under Chart A, the number of religious worker immigrant visas for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico has been reached for this fiscal year. The priority date for nationals of these four countries is only current if it falls before July 15, 2015.
The visa numbers for religious workers are drawn from the Employment-Based 4th preference category (EB-4). This category includes Special Immigrant Religious Workers (ministers and non-ministers) and Special Immigrant Juveniles.
Special Immigrant Religious Worker status is awarded to a foreign-born religious worker via an approved I-360 Petition. Typically, religious workers who have been granted Special Immigrant Religious Worker status are eligible to apply for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa. The adjustment of status is filed inside the U.S. and the immigrant visa application is filed at a consulate outside the United States. Each of these processes are the final step in the permanent residency process for religious workers.
When the quota is reached, the government cannot accept new applications for permanent residence. Applications currently pending will be placed on hold. Please note that religious workers who are nationals of all other countries may apply for adjustment of status without delay.
The U.S. government’s Fiscal Year 2017 runs from Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017. If the current year follows the same path as FY2016, any movement on the priority dates is unlikely for the remainder of this fiscal year. This means that religious workers from the affected countries would not be able to file an adjustment of status until Oct. 1, 2017, at the earliest.
The delay will have a profound effect on international religious workers who seek permanent residence in the U.S. The situation compounds the hardship for religious worker “non-ministers” who are facing an end of their permanent residence program on April 28, 2017, due to sunset provisions in the legislation, unless the program is extended by Congress.
At this point we cannot predict how long these delays will continue or if other countries will be added. As always, we greatly appreciate your support and we will work diligently to address the situation.
Please note that this does NOT change the R-1 Visa program. The R-1 Visa is separate from permanent residence and you are still able to sponsor religious workers for R-1 visas.