The labor certification is a time-consuming process which takes up to years in certain scenarios, for it to be approved and certified. However, in limited cases under the immigration laws, an alien may go around the labor certification and file his immigrant worker petition with the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS).

An immigrant religious worker petition may be filed by or for an alien (who is either abroad or in the United States) immediately with the INS without resorting to the tedious and time consuming labor certification process.

The petitioner must be a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. that is exempted from taxation as described in section 501c(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or prove that it would be eligible if it had applied for tax exempt status. Such evidence may include letters of exemption from the Internal Revenue Service (in appropriate cases, evidence of the organization’s assets and methods of operation and the organization’s papers of incorporation under applicable state law).

The alien must prove that immediately prior to the filing of the petition, the alien has the required two years of membership in the denomination and the required two years of experience in the religious vocation, professional religious work, or other religious work. Such evidence may be in the form of a letter from an authorized official of the religious organization in the U.S. or foreign religious organization.

Further, the alien must provide evidence of completion of theological studies, or if he is a minister, he or she has authorization to conduct religious worship and allowed to perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy.

The bona fide religious organization will make a job offer to the immigrant religious worker and the immigrant worker petition would be filed with INS. However, the petitioner, in this case the bona fide religious organization, must state how the alien will be paid or remunerated if the alien will work in a professional religious capacity or in other religious work.

Basically, the documentation from the petitioner should clearly indicate that the alien will not be solely dependent on supplemental employment or solicitation of funds for support. In doubtful cases, additional evidence such as bank letters, recent audits, church membership figures, and/or number of individuals currently receiving compensation may be requested.

The time span for the approval of the petition is approximately three to four months. An approved employment-based petition will be forwarded to the United States Consulate selected by the petitioner and indicated on the petition.  If the alien is in the United States, then an application for adjustment of status could be filed with the INS office that has jurisdiction on the alien’s place of residence. An employment-based petition us valid indefinitely.

Spouses and minor children of the immigrant religious workers are allowed to enter the United States and obtain immigrant status derivative to the main applicant.

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