This case was reported in the USCIS website on April 3, 2020. The petitioner, a Roman Catholic church, sought to classify an applicant/beneficiary as a “Special Immigrant Religious Worker,” so the beneficiary could work in the US as a “consecrated vowed member. The petition was filed in California pursuant to the Nationality Act - Section 203(b)(4), 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(4) which permits non-profit religious organizations (or their affiliates) the right to employ foreign nationals as ministers in religious vocations or religious occupations in America.
According to the USCIS, generally, the spouse of the religious worker and the children who are under 21-yers of age may apply to adjust their status on the same basis as the religious worker seeks to adjust his/her religious worker status.
It’s critical that religious organizations and individuals who file for a religious worker green card understand the relevant terms. For example, there is a large difference between religious occupation and a religious vocation. Just that one different word – occupation versus vocation - can open up a host of requirements and evidentiary issues.
The USCIS recognizes that ministers of a religious denomination have a strong tradition in the US immigration law framework. Congressional approval for lawful permanent residency for qualifying ministers and their families dates back to the Immigration Act of 1924. In 1990, Congress crafted a special immigration category – for both ministers and other religious workers in the new Immigration and Nationality Act.
For many religious workers, an R-1 visa is a stepping-stone to obtaining a green card. The requirements for R-1 visas and green cards are similar but not identical. An experienced immigration lawyer understands the differences. He also understands the formalities that you need to meet to either transfer/adjust an R-1 visa to an approved green card status or to file for a green card initially.