Aliens can immigrate as a religious worker to the U.S. through special immigrant category.

Aliens applying for special immigrant status under INA 101(a)(27)(C) must demonstrate that their services are needed by a religious denomination in the United States. The following factors are relevant to whether a bona fide need for such services exists:

  1. The number of ministers and staff currently serving the particular church (i.e., has the number diminished or increased?);
  2. The size of the congregation (i.e., has the congregation significantly increased?);
  3. The specific duties which the alien will be undertaking (i.e., has the church grown or diversified to the extent that additional staff is needed?);
  4. Prior experience of the alien relating to the specific duties to be undertaken (i.e., if the petitioning church needs a youth minister, administrator, etc., does the alien have the required background?); and
  5. Whether or not the church previously had the services of a minister or staff to perform the duties which the alien is to be undertaking, and if not, what circumstances have created a “need” for the alien’s services (i.e., an increase in the size of the congregation or additional responsibilities placed upon the current minister of staff).

Here are the following requirements needed in order to petition pursuant to 8 C.F.R. §§204.5(m)(1)-(4):

  1. For at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of petition, the person “has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide, nonprofit, religious organization in the United States,” and
  2. The person seeks to enter the U.S.
    1. To work full time (35 hours) in a compensated (not voluntary) position,
    2. Solely to carry on his or her vocation as a minister, or
    3. To work for a bona fide, nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. or its affiliate in the U.S.; and
  3. The person has been working as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation, either abroad or in lawful status in the U.S. for at least 2-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
  4. The religious work for the two prior years must be continuous, but some cases support the position that it need not be full-time for the 2-year period.
  5. USCIS does not regard voluntary service as meeting the 2-year requirement the applicant should have received compensation while working as a minister.

Alien can include spouses and children accompanying or following to join.

If you have any questions pertaining to special immigrant status, please call the immigration lawyers at Gopal & Pedigo, PC or visit our website at We are conveniently located near Nashville International Airport in Nashville, TN.