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I-360, Special Immigrant Religious Workers

SPECIAL IMMIGRANT RELIGIOUS WORKER PETITIONS

A religious worker is able to obtain U.S. permanent residence (i.e., a "green card") based on his or her employment when all of the following criteria are met:

  • The religious worker must have been performing the vocation, professional work, or other work continuously (either in the U.S. or abroad) for the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
  • For at least the two years immediately preceding the filing of the petition, the religious worker must have been a member of a religious denomination which has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States.
  • The work to be performed on a permanent basis is: (1) as a minister for a religious denomination; (2) in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the organization; or (3) in a religious vocation or occupation for the organization or a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination. Congress has extended the ability of non-minister religious workers (i.e., options 2 and 3) to obtain U.S. permanent residence based on their employment until September 30, 2015.

The Process

The U.S. employer must file an I-360 petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), California Service Center. The petition must include evidence that the above criteria have been met and evidence of how the religious worker will be compensated. In addition, the petitioning employer must make certain attestations regarding the number of R-1 and special immigrant religious workers who have worked for the prospective employer and the number of R-1 and I-360 petitions filed by the prospective employer over the past five years. The prospective employer must also confirm that the eligibility criteria for the type of petition being filed have been met.

If the religious worker is outside the United States, he or she will need to apply for an immigrant visa after the I-360 petition has been approved. If the religious worker is already in the United States in valid nonimmigrant status (presumably R-1 status), he or she has the option of filing an application for adjustment of status concurrently with the I-360 petition or after the I-360 petition has been approved.

Site Visits: The I-360 petition will not be approved until the petitioning employer has had a site visit by the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate ("FDNS"). It can take many months for the FDNS to make a site visit. The purpose of a site visit is to verify the existence of a petitioning organization. In 2005 the FDNS conducted a Benefit Fraud Assessment of special immigrant religious worker petitions and determined that a 33% fraud rate existed. A large number of petitions had been filed by nonexistent organizations, and material misrepresentations were common in documents submitted to establish eligibility.

How We Can Help You

We will prepare the required forms and assist you with the collection of the extensive supporting documentation for the I-360 petition. Once all of the supporting documentation has been collected, we will file your petition with the USCIS California Service Center. If you are in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status, we will also prepare and file your application for adjustment of status. If you are outside the U.S., we will prepare your application for an immigrant visa and file it with the National Visa Center. We will also prepare you for your immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.

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