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Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides separate immigration classifications for religious workers depending on whether they seek to work in the United States on a permanent or a temporary basis.[1] Aliens working in the United States temporarily as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation are eligible for the nonimmigrant religious worker (R-1) classification.[2]

B. Background

In 1990, Congress created new immigration classifications for religious workers, including the R-1 nonimmigrant classification and a special immigrant religious worker classification.[3]

In 2005, the USCIS Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) conducted a Benefit Fraud Assessment of the special immigrant religious worker program by randomly selecting and reviewing pending and approved cases. As a result, USCIS issued a report finding significant fraud in the use of this classification.[4] This led USCIS to reconsider how it administered the special immigrant religious worker program.

In 2008, USCIS promulgated regulations that added requirements to establish eligibility for the special immigrant and nonimmigrant religious worker programs.[5] In part, the regulations introduced a requirement that a beneficiary’s prospective employer submit a petition for all R-1 nonimmigrants, including those outside of the United States.[6] The regulations also provided USCIS with discretionary authority to visit the petitioning employer's facility before issuing a decision.

C. Legal Authorities

Footnotes


[^ 1] See INA 101(a)(27)(C) and INA 101(a)(15)(R). See 8 CFR 204.5(m). The INA affords permanent religious workers a special immigrant status. Ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations may immigrate to or adjust status in the United States for the purpose of performing religious work in a full-time, compensated position under the employment-based 4th-preference visa classification. See INA 101(a)(27)(C). For more information about adjusting to lawful permanent residence as a special immigrant religious worker, see Volume 7, Adjustment of Status, Part F, Special Immigrant-Based (EB-4) Adjustment, Chapter 2, Religious Workers [7 USCIS-PM F.2].

[^ 2] See INA 101(a)(15)(R).

[^ 3] See Section 209 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT 90), Pub. L. 101-649 (PDF), 104 Stat. 4978, 5027 (November 29, 1990), creating new INA 101(a)(15)(R). See Section 151 of IMMACT 90, Pub. L. 101-649 (PDF), 104 Stat. 4978, 5004 (November 29, 1990), creating new INA 101(a)(27)(C).

[^ 4] See Religious Worker Benefit Fraud Assessment Summary (PDF, 121.85 KB) (July 2006).

[^ 5] See 73 FR 72276 (PDF) (Nov. 26, 2008).

[^ 6] Previously, a prospective nonimmigrant outside the United States could apply at a consular office overseas or, if visa-exempt, seek initial admission into the United States. See 72 FR 20442, 20444 (Apr. 25, 2007).

Resources

Legal Authorities

8 CFR 214.2(r) - Religious workers

INA 101(a)(15)(R) - Definition of R nonimmigrant classification

INA 214(c) - Admission of nonimmigrants

Appendices

No appendices available at this time.

Updates

POLICY ALERT - Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements Final Rule

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is revising its policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to align with the Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements Final Rule, published in the Federal Register on August 3, 2020. This guidance becomes effective October 2, 2020. For information regarding implementation, see our litigation summary.

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Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.

Technical Update - Incorporating Existing Guidance into the Policy Manual

This technical update is part of an initiative to move existing policy guidance from the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) into the Policy Manual. This update does not make major substantive changes but consolidates and incorporates existing AFM guidance into the Policy Manual, streamlining USCIS’ immigration policy while removing obsolete information. This guidance replaces Chapters 1, 3.4, 10.2, 10.3(a), 10.3(c), 10.3(e), 10.3(i), 10.4, 10.22, 11.1(c), 13, 14, 17, 23.8, 31.7, 33.10, 34.5, 35, 41.6, 42, 44, 56.1, 56.3, 56.4, 62, 81, 82, 83.1, 83.2, and 83.3 of the AFM, related appendices, and policy memoranda.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].