The non-minister special immigrant religious worker program currently has legislative authority through April 28, 2017, under a bill signed by President Obama in December 2016. The law allows non-ministers, such as religious sisters or brothers, or other lay religious workers in the religious vocation or religious occupation categories, to adjust to permanent resident status.
If the non-minister provision is not extended, or signed into law by the expiration date, those in R-1 religious worker status in the religious vocation or religious occupation categories will not be able to apply for permanent resident status. That means that they will not be allowed to submit I-360 petitions or I-485 applications after the sunset date. Also, they will not be able to obtain immigrant visas from United States consulates abroad. The sunset date also applies to accompanying spouses and children of non-minister special immigrant religious workers. It is important to note that the sunset date does not affect religious workers in the minister category and that ministers can continue to apply for permanent residence.
The non-minister special immigrant religious worker program was enacted in 1990 with a built-in sunset provision, but it has always been extended repeatedly through legislative action. We hope it will be extended again before the sunset date. However, given the controversial climate for immigration in Congress and the current administration, we are unsure how quickly Congress will act.
Please contact your CLINIC attorney with any questions about how the sunset provisions could affect your organization.