The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a notice informing its Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) staff that the Special Immigrant Religious Visa Classification has been extended for an additional five years. The clause that allowed for “special immigrants” to enter the United States to work in a religious vocation or occupation sunset in September 2003. However, this sunset date did not apply to those individuals coming to the United States to solely practice as a minister of a religious denomination.
The DHS notice clarifies that an Act signed into law October 15, 2003 extended the special immigrant religious worker classification for an additional five years, until September 30, 2008.
In addition, the notice clarifies the regulations regarding nonprofit status for religious organizations. In order for an individual to be applicable for a Form I-360 Special Immigrant Religious Worker petition or a Form I-129 Non-immigrant Religious Worker petition, the religious organization they are intending to work with must be classified as nonprofit and must prove this status with certain documentation.
The following must be submitted to establish the nonprofit status of a religious organization:
1. A signed letter from the IRS that shows the organization is indeed exempt from taxation based on its religious status, as stated in section 501(c)(3) of the IRC; or
2. A signed letter that establishes the religious organization as tax exempt under a group tax exemption as stated in section 509(a)(1) of the IRC, and that the religious group’s tax exemption status accords with section 501(c)(3) of the IRC; or
3. Documentation that establishes the religious organization’s eligibility for tax exemption as stated in section 501(c)(3) of the IRC; and
4. Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization. This documentation must include, at least, the following:
a. A completed IRS Form 1023;
b. A completed Schedule A supplement, if applicable;
c. One copy of the organizing instrument of the religious organization containing the necessary dissolution clause required by the IRS that specifies the purpose(s) of the religious organization;
d. Brochures, calendars, flyers and other miscellaneous literature that describes the religious purpose and nature of the religious organization.