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Federal Court Denies Work Visa to Foreign Religious Worker

Immigrant ministers must fulfill several requirements to qualify for work visas.


* A federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) can deny a special immigrant religious worker visa to ministers who did not work full time in the ministry for the two years preceding their visa petition, even though federal law does not directly require two years of full-time employment. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) denied a Hawaiian Presbyterian church's petition for a "special immigrant religious worker" visa for its minister. The church appealed, claiming that the CIS erred in requiring it to prove that its pastor had worked full time as a minister during the two years immediately preceding the visa petition.

Federal immigration law specifies that a minister may qualify for a special immigrant religious worker visa only if he or she (1) has been a member of a bona fide religious denomination for at least two years, (2) "seeks ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • May 1, 2008

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