Permanent Resident Status for Religious Workers

Beneficiaries of R-1 Visas, presently employed as ministers or involved in a religious profession may have a more uncomplicated path to attaining lawful permanent resident status. All applicants must meet certain requirements in order to obtain a LPR status.

White outline of a cross in front of an American flag

One main difference between the R-1 Visa and a green card is that the applicant of a green card who is a religious worker must prove 2 years of certifying employment under the religious worker status. The R-1 visa offers persons the favor to accomplish the 2 year requirement.

The most basic way for a religious worker to obtain his green card is to first apply for the R-1 Visa; if approved, then he/she will need to work for 2 years and continue the process with same employer or another interested employer. Holding an R-1 Visa might help speed up the green card process.

Changing Status From an R-1 Visa to a U.S. Green Card

Step 1: A U.S. Employer files I-360 Visa Petition on Behalf of Foreign National.

If the immigrant already has the stipulated 2 years working experience as a religious worker, the U.S. employer can then move forward and fill-out Form I-360 with USCIS on behalf of foreigner.

Vital Information and Supporting Documentation

  • Form I-360 Visa Petition: Is easily accessible on the USCIS website for free. While application forms may appear confusing, applicants are advised to fill out the employer and employee sections that are only for religious workers.
  • Employer’s Confirmation: Employer must be able to demonstrate specific and accurate information on the I-360 petition pertaining to the religious association, ties with other religious groups, any previous religious worker or R Visa petition filings, and the potential to pay suggested salaries. The U.S. employer must also confirm the nominated job position and the employee’s educational and other qualifications.
  • Documentation of Nonprofit Status: It is compulsory that the U.S. employer gets official information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) establishing nonprofit status as an employer. A letter of determination can indicate that the religious association is tax-exempt.
  • Evidence of Employer’s Capability of Paying: U.S. employer MUST provide substantial proof that its employment organization is more than able to pay the salary offered to the immigrant worker. Employer should be able to yield W-2 Forms demonstrating payments made to the hired foreign national and others employed, yearly reports, financial accounts and tax returns of the employer’s business are also needed.
  • Confirmation of Membership: the employee must provide documents that proves at least a 2-year membership to the religious association before filing the I-360 U.S. Visa Petition. Example: membership to a church and a letter from the Pastor of the church should be fine.
  • Visa Petition on Behalf of a Minister: The minister must provide copies of educational and ordination certificates summarizing the process, if the religious sect does not have a set theological education standard.
  • 2 Years Experience: Every employer hiring foreign nationals must render documents attesting that the employee fulfilled 2 years of certified labor before applying for the I-360 visa petition. A letter from U.S. employer with applicable supporting documentation must be included.
  • Application Fee: The Form I-360 Fee can be found on the USCIS website.

Change in Processing Time

Since 2013, the estimated processing timeframe for an I-360 visa petition has been around 5 months. Such time can be even longer by several months if the employer is filing an I-360 visa petition for the first time.

The reason behind the extended processing time is that the USCIS is strict about making visitations for first-timers applying under the religious worker classification. USCIS simply makes visits to confirm that the association and future employment is genuine. To make matters even more complex, the USCIS sends agents to visit the employer’s main and other connecting organizations, and does a thorough analysis of related documentations and orchestrates interviews with other employees and church ministers. These extended visits are only applicable to first-time applicants.

Step 2. Immigrant Worker Adjusts Status at a U.S. Consulate of in the U.S.

After an employer’s I-360 Visa Petition is approved by USCIS the foreign national he/she has two available options. He can either fill out an I-485 Application to Adjust Status with USCIS or seek an immigration visa, at a U.S. Consulate in his home country.

Applying for Adjustment of Status in the United States of America

All recipients, present or future employees of I-360 visa petitions legally living in the U.S. may be eligible to file Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, and then submit to USCIS. Other family members such as a spouse and underaged children that are solely dependent on primary applicant may submit I-485 Applications as Derivative applicants. Processing time for this particular application may take 6 months or even longer.

Applying at a U.S. Consulate for an Immigrant Visa

Future employee living in foreign countries while the U.S. employer is seeking an I-360 visa petition on behalf of immigrant worker will go through a slightly different process after an I-360 petition is approved.

Primary applicants must begin by assembling and submitting their paperwork and making several payments to the National Visa Center (NVC). After the NVC finalizes the process the immigrant worker and his family members such as a spouse and underaged children, if approved, will be granted the opportunity to interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad and will then obtain their immigrant visas which are comparable to a green card.

The U.S. Consulate in their home country provides a short-term confirmation status (I-551) inside the passport. The authentic green card(s) will be mailed to the U.S. address of the beneficiary, within a few weeks or months of entering the U.S.

It is quite evident that regardless of any U.S. visa category, all applicants must provide solid evidence and reasons for the pursuit of a green card. If you do not want to go through the entire process alone, hire an immigration attorney.

U.S. Immigration Law Attorney

The Gambacorta Law Office can provide the assistance you need, especially knowing that U.S. immigration laws are firm. Do not hesitate to call us at 847-443-9303. Make an office appointment to any of our office locations in Arizona and Illinois.

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