Religious Workers

Nonprofit US religious organizations may use the religious worker classification to bring religious workers to work in the US on a temporary or permanent basis. (The organization must be eligible for tax exempt status, and must also be affiliated with a religious denomination.)

The foreign national may work with the organization in one of the following religious capacities:

  • Minister of religion*
  • Professional worker in a religious vocation or occupation**
  • Other worker in a religious occupation or non-professional vocation***

*A minister is a person authorized by his religion to conduct worship services and perform other functions.

**A professional religious position is one for which the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree.

***A religious occupation is one that is traditionally done within the religious denomination, e.g. missionary, counselor, and liturgical worker. A religious vocation is a calling to the religious life with a demonstrable commitment to that life, e.g. monk or nun.

To apply for Temporary Religious Worker Status, the foreign national must have been a member of the same religious denomination as the petitioning religious organization for the two years preceding the application. This status is usually granted for up to 5 years, in increments of 30 months. After 5 years, the foreign national must leave the US for one year before he or she can be eligible for this status again. Alternatively, the religious organization may petition for permanent resident status for the foreign national.

To apply for Special Immigrant Religious Worker status, the foreign national must have carried on qualifying religious work continuously for the previous two years. If the religious organization is successful in their petition for their special immigration religious worker, the foreign national may then be eligible to apply for US permanent resident status.

PLEASE NOTE: Immigration law and regulations change frequently. In order to protect yourself you should make sure that you understand the laws and how they apply to you. If you have questions about your status, you should consult an expert. If you would like to be notified about recent changes to this website, or if you would like to receive Immigration Tips by email, please provide us with your email address. If you would like help from Ms. Chappell-Daly, please contact her.