Religious Workers to Face Much Longer Wait Times for Permanent Residence

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On March 22, the Department of State and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) released the April 2023 Visa Bulletin showing updates to the immigrant visa, or permanent residence, quota limits to begin on April 1, 2023.

There will be a significant retrogression of priority dates for the Employment-Based 4th preference category (EB4). The EB4 category includes the religious worker permanent residence program. The updated priority date applicable to all countries will be Sept. 1, 2018.

This means only those religious workers who have an approved I-360 Special Immigrant petition with a priority date (date the I-360 petition was filed) of Sept. 1, 2018, or earlier will be permitted to adjust status to permanent resident or apply for an immigrant visa abroad.

There has been an increasing demand in the EB4 category since the end of 2022, further delaying permanent residence for religious workers. This latest update is a major shift and will result in much longer wait times for religious workers hoping to obtain permanent resident status.

Our office is very concerned about this update, especially since religious workers have a limited stay in the U.S. of five years with R-1 status. There is a greater risk now that many religious workers will run out of R-1 time before being able to apply for permanent residence. This could result in many religious workers having no option but to depart the U.S. at the end of their R-1 time, leaving the communities they serve and depriving them of the essential work they perform.

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