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Non-minister religious worker visa program to sunset

Many religious workers and their families in Florida may be concerned about planned changes to a special immigrant visa program, especially if they are not ministers. Over the years, people coming to the U.S. to work full time in religious occupations or vocations have been able to take advantage of an employment-based, fourth-preference visa program known as EB-4 for religious workers. While there is no annual cap on the number of ministers who are able to make use of the program during each year, there has been a cap of 5,000 visas each year issued for religious workers who are not ministers.

The program, however, is scheduled to come to an end, at least for non-ministers. Religious ministers and their spouses will retain the same eligibility as they did in the past. However, the non-minister category has already received one extension after it expired. On Feb. 15, 2019, President Trump signed an extension allowing the program to continue until Sept. 30. This means that non-ministers and their spouses who want to adjust their status to receive a green card or come to the U.S. need to complete their applications before that date.

There are several criteria used to assess applicants for the special immigrant visa program. They must be members of a real religious denomination that has been a non-profit organization in the U.S. for at least two years. They must be coming to work full-time and for pay. In addition, they must be able to show that they have a work history in their religious field, including continuous work in the two years prior to the application.

People in the field may be very concerned about the changes coming to the program. An immigration law attorney may provide advice about how to handle the changes, make an application or seek permanent residence.

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