Religion in Immigration

Religion can be a very important factor in immigration law. As there are holidays in many religions during the coming months, it is the perfect time to talk about this topic. Watch our video to learn more.

Can you define religion for immigration purposes.

Religion has to be a defined and recognized major religion, sect, or denomination, such as Catholicism, Sunni or Shi’a Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.

Can a religious worker come to the United States on a Visa?

Yes! This is the R-1 Visa. It is a nonimmigrant visa that allows you to come to the United States for up to 5 years. You do not need any prior experience for this visa, but the position has to be paid and be part of a “defined” religion.

Can a religious worker get a Green Card?

Yes! The I-360 Petition for Special Immigrant Religious Worker allows religious workers to gain a Green Card. Like the R-1, the position has to be paid, but for this application, you need at least two years of experience. For both the R-1 and I-360, an immigration officer will visit the organization that you are going to work for to make sure it is a legitimate religious organization. The whole process takes about 7-9 months.

There are three categories you can use to apply: Vocation, Profession, or Ministry. To illustrate the difference, we will use the Catholic Church as an example. A vocation would be someone working as a monk or a nun, that is, someone working in the church but of lesser status than a Priest. The Priest would fall under the Minister category, as would an Imam or Rabbi. The profession category needs a university education; for example, a professor who came to teach theology in a religious school would fall under the professional category.

How can religion help me gain Asylum

Religion is one of the 5 grounds someone can use to apply for Asylum. To learn more about Asylum in general, watch our video about it. An applicant has to show that they fear harm or persecution based on their religion in their home country.

What constitutes religious persecution?

There are many different forms of persecution. If the government or others forbids or restricts freedom of worship, if people are jailed because of their religion, if they are denied access to services or otherwise discriminated against, if they are beaten for their religion, or if believers experience any kind of harm or mistreatment because of their religion, that is religious persecution.