Non-Minister Special Immigrant Worker Category to Expire Mar 6, 200913 Feb 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 Termination
As explained in our December 19, 2008 MurthyBulletin article, 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 6, 2009.
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. MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers will be updated on any new developments with regard to this important matter.