On August 30, 2022, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has updated its Policy Manual to reorganize and expand upon existing guidance related to special immigrant religious workers and R-1 visa applicants.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows qualified noncitizens who will work for a bona fide nonprofit religious organization or affiliated organization solely as a minister, or in a religious vocation or occupation, to qualify as a special immigrant or to enter the United States temporarily under the R-1 nonimmigrant visa classification. 

USCIS has entirely replaced the existing content in Volume 6, Chapter 2 (providing guidance for immigrant religious workers) with updated content. This Chapter has been reorganized for consistency with the R-1 nonimmigrant visa content and expands on existing guidance. USCIS has also updated Volume 2, Chapter 3 of its Policy Manual, relating to nonimmigrant R visas for religious workers.

In this updated content, USCIS:

  • Provides further description of the process of filing to become a special immigrant religious worker, the verification of related evidence, and the site inspection process. 
  • Expands on further evidence that a special immigrant religious worker petitioner may submit to demonstrate that the prospective employer is a qualifying organization, that the religious worker will be employed in a qualifying position, and how the employer intends to compensate the religious worker.
  • Clarifies that, when an attesting employer is not the entity that will directly compensate the religious worker (whether special immigrant or temporary R-1 visa applicant), USCIS will review the relationship between the attesting employer and the entity directly compensating the religious worker in the totality of the circumstances to confirm eligibility. 

Effective immediately upon its release, this guidance applies prospectively to petitions filed on or after August 30, 2022 and supersedes any related prior guidance on the topic. 

On March 15, 2022, President Biden signed into law H.R. 2471, which extended the EB-4 non-minister special immigrant religious worker program through Sept. 30, 2022. Accordingly, applicants seeking to immigrate or adjust to permanent resident status under this EB-4 category by Sept. 30, 2022, will be subject to these new policy guidelines. 

If you are seeking to apply for a special immigrant or temporary R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker classification, or if you are a religious organization or affiliated organization looking to petition for a prospective applicant, please feel free to contact Green & Spiegel for assistance at info@gands-us.com or by contacting us directly at (215) 395-8959.


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