This is just to alert you about the impending expiration of legislation that is important to all religious organizations. Since 1990, there has been a U.S. program that allows non-clergy religious workers (non-ordained) to obtain permanent residence (i.e, green cards) to work in their religious occupation in the United States. The legislation authorizing this program will expire on September 30, 2016, unless Congress acts to renew it.
As a result, after September 30th, lay religious workers (non-clerics/on-ordained) will no longer be able to apply to get green cards. They will need to leave the U.S. when their non-immigrant “R-1” visas expire. It is important to note that R1 visas can only be renewed once, allowing religious workers to stay in the US for a maximum of 5 years, unless the aforementioned legislation is renewed which would allow them to become permanent residents.
This will have a tremendous impact for the Catholic Church in the United States. Brothers and Sisters are often in the forefront of direct service to the poor, advocacy, and social justice work. With the changing demographics of the Church in the U.S., the continued presence of our immigrant brothers and sisters are vital to the service of a diversity of peoples from all over the world, many of whom are low-income and vulnerable.
For all of my friends and families who care about our immigrant religious brothers and sisters working here in the U.S., as well as those who appreciate all of the hard work they do to build the Kingdom of God, I urge you to contact your representative in the U.S. Congress and Senate as soon as possible about this important.
The best way is to write a personalized letter to your representatives and senators to express your support of permanent residence for religious workers. People in office do read these letters and it will make a big difference!! Printing on letter head is also helpful, as well as naming the institution, church, or convent that you are a part of, especially if it is within your senator and congressman or congresswoman’s territory. For them, it’s all about listening their constituents – meaning it’s all about the votes!
Ask that he or she act now to extend the program providing special immigrant status to religious workers in the U.S., so that this important program will not expire on September 30, 2016.
Please support this campaign by visiting and signing up at www.CatholicWorkers.com. Additional information can be found at https://cliniclegal.org/programs/ris/provisions/sunset.
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