Special Immigrant Religious Workers

Special Immigrant Religious Workers.

To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, you must:

  • Have been a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing a petition for this status with USCIS;
  • Seek to enter the United States to work in a full time, compensated position in one of the following occupations:
  • Solely as a minister of that religious denomination;
  • A religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or
  • A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity;
  • Be coming to work for either:
    • A bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States; or
    • A bona fide organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States; and
  • Have been working in one of the positions described above after the age of 14, either abroad or in the United States, continuously for at least two years immediately before the filing of a petition with USCIS. The prior religious work does not need to correspond precisely to the type of work you will perform. A break in the continuity of the work during the preceding two years will not affect eligibility so long as:
  • You were still employed as a religious worker;
  • The break did not exceed two years; and
  • The nature of the break was for further religious training or sabbatical. However, you must have been a member of the petitioner’s denomination throughout the two years of qualifying employment.

Full-time work is an average of 35 hours per week. Compensated may mean salaried or nonsalaried.
A U.S. employer, or you on your own behalf, must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, to request special immigrant religious worker classification. Both you and the employing non-profit religious organization must satisfy the requirements listed below. If a petitioner believes that one of these requirements substantially burdens the organization’s exercise of religion, they may seek an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). A written request for the exemption should accompany the initial filing, and it must explain how the provision:

  • Requires participation in an activity prohibited by a sincerely held religious belief; or
  • Prevents participation in conduct motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.

The petitioner bears the burden of showing that they qualify for a RFRA exemption and must support the request with relevant documentation. We will decide exemption requests on a case-by-case basis.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, you must:

  • Have been a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing a petition for this status with USCIS;
  • Seek to enter the United States to work in a full time, compensated position in one of the following occupations:
  • Solely as a minister of that religious denomination;
  • A religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or
  • A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity;
  • Be coming to work for either:
    • A bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States; or
    • A bona fide organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States; and
  • Have been working in one of the positions described above after the age of 14, either abroad or in the United States, continuously for at least two years immediately before the filing of a petition with USCIS. The prior religious work does not need to correspond precisely to the type of work you will perform. A break in the continuity of the work during the preceding two years will not affect eligibility so long as:
  • You were still employed as a religious worker;
  • The break did not exceed two years; and
  • The nature of the break was for further religious training or sabbatical. However, you must have been a member of the petitioner’s denomination throughout the two years of qualifying employment.

Full-time work is an average of 35 hours per week. Compensated may mean salaried or nonsalaried.
A U.S. employer, or you on your own behalf, must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, to request special immigrant religious worker classification. Both you and the employing non-profit religious organization must satisfy the requirements listed below. If a petitioner believes that one of these requirements substantially burdens the organization’s exercise of religion, they may seek an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). A written request for the exemption should accompany the initial filing, and it must explain how the provision:

  • Requires participation in an activity prohibited by a sincerely held religious belief; or
  • Prevents participation in conduct motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.

The petitioner bears the burden of showing that they qualify for a RFRA exemption and must support the request with relevant documentation. We will decide exemption requests on a case-by-case basis.