by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Immigration of Alien Ministers, Religious Vocations, and Religious Occupations

§ 3.10

In the United States, churches have several options for employing foreign nationals working as a minister or in a religious occupation or vocation. Churches can petition for either nonimmigrant visas (R-1) or immigrant visas (EB4). A nonimmigrant visa is issued to a person who wishes to live and work in the U.S. for a temporary period, while an immigrant visa (green card) is issued to a person who wishes to live and work in the U.S. permanently.

Before deciding to petition for an R-1 or EB4, the church should analyze whether the foreign national has any other options for employment authorization, such as employment authorization through a spouse's immigration status, a pending green card application, F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT), F-1 Curriculum Practical Training (CPT), J-1 Visa, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and asylee status (see Chapter 8 for more information ...

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