Business Immigration Zone (BIZ): Religious Worker Visas

March 29, 2018

Religious worker visa options are available to religious organizations that may consider hiring religious personnel. Ministers or religious workers may enter the United States to work full time in a compensated position if they have been members of a bona fide religious organization for at least two years prior to seeking a visa.

A minister qualifies for admission under the following conditions:

  1. Fully authorized and trained in religious denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by clergy of denomination.
  2. Is not a lay preacher or an individual unauthorized to perform clergy's duties.
  3. Performs activities rationally related to being a minister.
  4. Works solely as a minister in the United States which may include incidental administrative duties. To qualify ministers must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  5. Deacons, practitioners of Christian Science, and officers of the Salvation Army may be deemed ministers.

A religious worker qualifies for admission under the following conditions:

  1. Member of a bona fide nonprofit religious denomination and organization in the United States for a minimum of two years immediately preceding the time of application for admission.
  2. Must work in a full-time or part-time position with a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  3. Must perform a religious vocation or occupation in either a professional or nonprofessional capacity.

Qualifying religious occupations are defined as follows:

Religious Occupation — The duties must primarily relate to: (i) a traditional religious function and be recognized as a religious occupation within the denomination; (ii) clearly involve inculcating or carrying out the religious creed and beliefs of the denomination; (iii) not include positions that are primarily administrative or support such as janitors, maintenance workers, clerical employees, fundraisers, person solely involved in solicitation of donations or similar positions but may include incidental administrative duties to religious functions; and (iv) not be solely for religious study or training for religious work, although a religious worker is not barred from such training or study.

Religious Vocation — A form of lifetime commitment through vows, investitures, ceremonies or similar indicia to a religious way of life such as nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters. Distinguished from secular members of the denomination.

Religious Denomination — A group or community of believers that is governed or administered under a common type of ecclesiastical government and includes one or more of the following: (i) common form of worship; (ii) common doctrine; (iii) common services; (iv) common established place of worship; or (v) comparable indicia.

Religious workers generally may obtain up to five years of status to work in the United States. However, religious workers may not work in the United States in any other capacity than as a minister or religious worker. Religious workers may work for more than one qualifying employer if each religious organization files a petition seeking a visa.

Contact Brandon Davis to answer questions concerning the religious worker visa options available to you.