to Expire Mar 6, 2009
Special immigrant religious workers
are currently able to petition for permanent residence in two distinct
categories. One category is for those who enter the United States to carry
on the vocation of minister in a religious denomination. The other
category is for those who have offers of employment in professional or
nonprofessional capacities within religious vocations or occupations. The
latter category is also referred to as
"non-minister" workers. On February 4, 2009, the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a
statement reminding the
general public that the non-minister category is
scheduled to expire March 6, 2009.
Effect of "Non-Minister" Worker Category
As explained in our December 19, 2008
USCIS Final Rule for Religious Workers,
the new rule on special immigrant religious workers, which went into
effect on November 26, 2008, postponed the expiration date for the
non-minister religious worker category from
October 10, 2008 to March 6, 2009.
As the new sunset date of March 6, 2009 is
approaching, there is currently no indication that Congress
intends to extend it any further. Absent Congressional extension, all
beneficiaries of non-minister worker petitions "must
either adjust status to permanent resident or be admitted with an
immigrant visa before March 6, 2009." This "also applies to spouses
and children of these non-minister workers who are accompanying the
non-minister worker, or who will 'follow to join.'"
The USCIS has indicated that new
I-360 petitions in the
non-minister religious worker category
are currently being accepted. They are trying to process pending
Applications to Adjust Status (Forms I-485), based on approved
non-minister I-360 petitions, as expeditiously as possible. Those who
request following to join by filing the Application for Action on an
Approved Application or Petition (Form I-824), based on an approved I-360,
may also request expedited processing of Form I-824.
Without a change in the law, the USCIS
will stop accepting any I-360
petitions and/or I-485 applications filed on behalf of
"non-minister" workers on or after March
Those who are affected by the March 6, 2009 sunset
date of the non-minister immigrant religious worker program should
be aware of its effect on their green card cases. All possible measures
should be taken to request expedited processing or any other action to
minimize adverse consequences of the termination of the program.
MurthyBulletin readers will be updated on any new
developments with regard to this important matter.
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