RIS Communication Limits with Third-Party Contacts
The Religious Immigration Services office frequently receives emails and phone calls from third-party contacts who are trying to assist a foreign national with the immigration process. RIS staff are legally limited in their ability to interact with a third-party contact, which is anyone who is not the foreign-born religious worker or a contact for the religious organization. Some common examples of third-party contacts would be the following: parish secretary, finance director for the parish, parishioner who is translating for the beneficiary and other attorneys who have been retained by the religious organization. While we appreciate their willingness to help, we legally cannot discuss any information with them regarding a foreign national or a process.
We have an attorney-client relationship with the religious organization and the foreign national — the two parties that have signed the client agreement. This means that we can only disclose information about the case with the parties listed in the client agreement and within the scope of the representation described in the client agreement. If a religious organization or foreign national want RIS staff to speak with a third-party contact, they must first email the RIS attorney to explain that a third-party contact is assisting in the process. We cannot speak to a third party unless we have received express permission from the petitioner and beneficiary. They need to explain what information the third-party contact will be requesting and verify that we are allowed to discuss the matter with them.
In addition, RIS needs to be informed of any limitations on information that can be shared. For example, if the foreign national wants someone to help translate and explain an email but not share access to sensitive data, we need to be informed of this limitation. Otherwise, by giving authorization to discuss the case with the third-party, we will answer any questions that they ask about the matter.
Please also note we can only represent a foreign-born religious worker in immigration matters. While RIS can provide a letter stating that a person is in status and reference the relevant immigration documents, we cannot advise on how to get a driver’s license or contact the DMV on someone’s behalf, contact the Social Security Administration or intervene on someone’s behalf with the local social security office, or assist someone in opening a bank account. These matters are outside the scope of our representation even if authorized to speak with third parties about these issues.