Applying for a US Visa as a Religious Worker

There are different kinds of visas offered in the United States—one of them specific for religious workers.  The US provides two visa categories for religious workers: temporary status for non-immigrants and legal permanent status for immigrants.  The non-immigrant visa allows ministers and persons of religious vocation to work in the US for 5 years.  After 5 years, they may apply for the green card to acquire permanent residence.  The processing for the non-immigrant visa takes around two to three months while the permanent resident visa takes six months or more.

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Requirements for a US Visa as a religious worker

Religious workers who wish to apply for this visa should be a member of a religious denomination in the past two years, holding any one of these positions: minister, a non-professional religious worker in a non-profit organization, or a professional worker with at least a Bachelor degree.  The applicant should be seeking solely to work as any of the mentioned positions in the US.  The religious denomination he or she is a part of must be exempt from taxation or is eligible for tax-exempt status.  The prospective employer must also file the petition Form I-360 with the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS).

Steps in applying for a US Visa as a religious worker

Step 1: Prepare the necessary documents required for visa application.

Aside from the filed petition, there are other required documents for a complete application.  First is the letter from the authorized religious organization you will be working for.  Next, a letter from an authorized official confirming the applicant’s membership in his or her religious denomination; this should include an explanation of the person’s religious work in the past two years and future work.  Lastly, there should be evidence that the religious organization is non-profit and tax-exempt in the US.

Step 2:  Complete the DS-156 form online.

The US Bureau of Consular Affairs offers this application form for non-immigrants through their website.  Complete this form in English and make sure your answers are accurate.  After you have confirmed your answers at the end of the form, a barcode will show up.  The barcode contains all the details you have entered.

Step 3:  Print the accomplished form and schedule an appointment with the US Consulate or Embassy in your country.

Once you’ve filled out your information online, print the accomplished form and barcode.  Call your local embassy to tell them you’ve sent the information.  The embassy will give you a specific date and time for your interview.

Step 4:  Pay the indicated fee for the religious worker visa.

The processing fee per person is US $335 and is not refundable.  Additional fees are charged for petitions that are filed.

Step 5: Bring the printed form and other necessary documents on your interview date.

All applicants need to submit personal documents like passports, birth certificates, police certificates, etc.  Every applicant also needs to undergo a medical examination, which is usually done by a doctor assigned by the embassy.  The embassy office will update applicants of the other documents needed as the applications are processed.

Things to remember

The religious worker visa is a special type of visa offered by the US Consular office.  Working in other countries for non-profit organizations is a unique and fruitful opportunity.  With the information and application forms for this kind of visa easily accessible, don’t waste the opportunity to do noble work abroad.  Remember to make sure your documents are complete and all information are accurate and true.  Always check with the US Embassy for any updates on your visa application.

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