Category Made Easy

Religious Workers

There are two subcategories of religious workers: clergy and other religious workers. Clergy is defined as a person authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious activi­ties. This includes not only ministers, priests, and rabbis, but also salaried Buddhist monks, commissioned officers of the salvation Army, practitioners and nurses of the Christian science Church, and ordained deacons. usually, to be considered a member of the clergy, you must have formal recognition from the religion in question, such as a license, certificate of ordination, or other qualifi­cation to conduct religious worship.

The subcategory of “other religious workers” covers people who are in a “religious vocation” or “religious occu­pation,” and are authorized to perform normal religious duties, but are not con­sidered part of the clergy. This includes anyone performing a traditional religious function in a professional capacity, such as liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, missionaries, reli­gious translators, or religious broadcast­ers. It does not cover workers involved in purely nonreligious functions such as jani­tors, maintenance workers, clerical staff, fundraisers, or even singers. It also does not cover volunteers. Internal usCIs deci­sions have added that religious workers

must have had some formal religious training or theological education—training that was established by the governing body of their denomination. (This issue is being fought out in federal courts, so the usCIs position may eventually change.) usCIs also requires that reli­gious workers be working in a tradition­ally permanent salaried position within the denomination and be assigned only religious duties.

To qualify for a green card in either of the two religious subcategories, you must have been a member for at least the past two years of a recognized religion that has a bona fide nonprofit organization in the united states. During those two years, you must have been employed continuously (though not necessarily full­time) by that same religious group. Your sole purpose in coming to the u. s. must be to work as a minister of that religion (and your denomination must need additional ministers), or, at the request of the organization, to work in some other capacity related to the religion’s activities in the united states. spouses and chil­dren may apply with you.

This provision of the law has been the subject of some controversy and there have been efforts in Congress to elimi­nate it as a way of getting permanent residence. In the year 2003, Congress extended the law to September 30, 2008.

Birth Between January 13, 1941, and december 23, 1952

If you were born between January 13, 1941, and December 23, 1952, both your parents were u. s. citizens and at least one had a prior residence in the u. s., you automatically acquired u. s. citizenship at birth, with no conditions to retaining it.

If only one parent was a u. s. citizen, that parent must have resided in the u. s. for at least ten years prior to your birth, and at least five of those years must have been after your parent reached the age of 16. With a parent thus qualified, you then acquired u. s. citizenship at birth, but with conditions for retaining it. To keep your citizenship, you must have resided in the u. s. for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 28. Alternately, you could retain citizenship if your noncitizen parent naturalized before you turned 18 and you began liv­ing in the u. s. permanently before age 18. As a result of a u. s. supreme Court decision, if you were born after october 9, 1952, your parent still had to fulfill the residence requirement in order to confer citizenship on you, but your own resi­dence requirements for retaining U. S. citi­zenship were abolished. If your one u. s. citizen parent was your father and your birth was illegitimate (took place while your parents weren’t married), the same rules applied provided you were legally legitimated (your father acknowledged paternal responsibility) prior to your 21st birthday and you were unmarried at the time of legitimation.

Arrange for an Interpreter

USCIS doesn’t provide interpreters at interviews in the United States. A few of their officers speak Spanish or other languages, but you can’t count on getting a bilingual officer, nor can you request one. If you’re not comfortable in English, you’ll need to bring a friend or hire an interpreter to help.

The interpreter must be over 18 and fluent in both your language and in Eng­lish. Some officers also require that the interpreter be a legal resident or citizen of the United States (of course, if they’re here illegally, they’d be foolish to walk into a USCIS office).

1. What the UScIS officials Will Do and Say

In spite of the fact that hundreds of very different people are interviewed each day across the United States, these interviews tend to follow a pattern.

Here’s what will probably happen at your adjustment interview, step by step.

1. After sitting in the waiting room with dozens of other immigrants for so long that you’re sure they’ve forgotten you, you’ll be summoned to the inner rooms of the USCIS adjustments unit.

2. Your fingerprint will be taken for use on the green card. The officer will use your index, or second, finger.

3. You’ll be brought to the USCIS officer’s desk, where your identifi­cation will be checked. Just when you’re seated comfortably, you, your petitioner, and your interpreter (if you’ve brought one) will have

to stand up again, raise your right hands, and take oaths to tell the truth.

4. The officer will start by going through your written application, asking you about the facts and examining the medical and finger­print reports for factors that might make you ineligible for a green card. As discussed earlier, this is one of the most important parts of the interview. You’ll sign the appli­cation to confirm its correctness.

5. The officer will ask you and your petitioner about facts relating to your basis for immigrating. You’ll get the most questions if you’re applying based on marriage, in which case expect questions about where you met, when and why you decided to get married, how many people attended your wedding, or what you did on your most recent birthday or night out. You’ll back up your answers with documents that illustrate the genuine nature of your marriage, such as rental agree­ments and joint utility bills.

6. If there’s a problem in your application that you can correct by submitting additional materials, the officer will usually put your case on hold and send you home with a list of additional documents to provide by mail within a specified time. For example, if your family petitioner’s earnings are insufficient, the officer may suggest you find another family member to sign an I-864 Affidavit of support. Rarely does usCIs deny an application on the spot.

7. If you’re applying based on mar­riage, and the officer suspects that your marriage is fraudulent, a whole new step will be added to the pro­cess. You will meet the Fraud Unit. There, an officer will interview you and your spouse separately—and intensively. The officer will compare the results of your two interviews.

At the end of the interview, if you are approved, a stamp will be placed in your passport as evidence of your conditional or permanent residence. With this stamp, you acquire all the rights of a green card holder, including the right to work, and freedom to travel in and out of the united states. You will receive your permanent green card by mail several months later.

If your fingerprints have not cleared yet, your application will be approved only provisionally, pending FBI clearance. In those cases, no stamp will be placed in your passport at the interview. Instead, you should receive a written notice of approval within a month or two.

That written notice serves as your proof of U. S. residency until you receive your green card, which normally takes yet another two or three months. If you need to travel outside the U. S. before your green card arrives, however, you must go back to the USCIS office, with your passport and the written notice of approval, and a temporary stamp will be placed in your passport, enabling you to return after your trip. Never leave the U. S. without either your green card or a temporary stamp in your passport.

H. What to Do If an

Interview Is Going Badly

Your chances of a smooth interview will be greatly increased by the advance preparation and organizing you’re doing by using this book. Unfortunately, your efforts can’t entirely guarantee a successful interview. A lot will hinge on the personality or mood of the govern­ment official.

It’s important to have a balanced view of the USCIS and consular officers who will be interviewing you. They’re human —and they have seen a lot of fraudulent applicants along with the worthy ones.

Certain immigration officers have been known to go out of their way to help people—for example, spending hours searching for something in a room full of old files; or fitting a person’s interview into their schedule even when the per­son arrived two hours late. On the other

image080hand, some officers can get downright rude or hostile. Remember that they hold much of the power—getting angry will get you nowhere fast. Remain respectful and answer honestly if you don’t know or remember something. Never guess or lie.

Some immigrant applicants have heard wild rumors about how to win over a U. S. government official. One showed up for his USCIS interview wearing a loud tie covered with American flags. He interjected comments about America’s greatness and what a terrific member of society he would be. Not surprisingly, the officer rolled her eyes and got irritated. Most USCIS officers just want to see some­one who won’t waste their time, has an orderly, clean case, and is legally eligible for the green card or other benefit.

Try to get the officer’s name. USCIS and consular officers often don’t tell you their name, but it may be shown on their desk. The best thing to do is politely ask the person’s name at the beginning of the interview (not when things have already started to go badly, when he or she may get defensive). Then write the name down. This tidbit of information may become important later. For example, if you need to file a complaint, discuss the matter with a supervisor, or consult with an attorney, you’ll have an edge if you know whom you dealt with. (An experienced attorney will know all the local USCIS officers by name and can better understand your description of what happened when he or she learns who was involved.)

Some officers are irate no matter how the applicant behaves. You might encoun­ter an officer who makes irrelevant ac­cusations, acts in a discriminatory manner based on your race or gender, becomes uncontrollably angry, or persists with a line of questions or statements that is completely inappropriate. If any of these things happens, ask to see a supervisor.

If things are going badly, you don’t have to let the situation go from bad to worse, ending with an on-the-spot rejec­tion of your application. To avoid letting the officer make a final, negative deci­sion, offer to supply any information that the officer asked for, so that your case will be postponed (“pended” in USCIS lingo). When you get home, write down as many details as you can remember of the interview, while it’s fresh in your mind. Then, consider consulting an attor­ney about your experience to learn what you can do to improve the reaction to your application. Even if you don’t speak with a lawyer, write a letter, asking that a supervisor consider the interviewer’s conduct when making his or her final review of your case. Supervisors review all cases, but they will assume the officer acted appropriately unless you tell them otherwise.

You can file a formal complaint against a USCIS employee. In recent years, USCIS has tried to improve its public image by making it possible to file a com­plaint. Filing a complaint may not help your
own case (the office you complain to is in Washington, DC, well removed from your file); but it won’t hurt, either—USCIS prom­ises not to retaliate. There’s even a form for your complaint: Form I-847.

Preparing for Your Interview

see the checklist below to help you orga­nize the forms and documents necessary for your fiance visa interview.

Here’s some additional information regarding some of the items on the checklist below:

Police clearance. Unlike applications made in the U. S., you personally must collect police clearance certificates from each country you have lived in for one year or more since your 16th birthday. Additionally, you must have a police cer­tificate from your home country or coun­try of last residence, if you lived there for at least six months since the age of 16. You do not need to obtain police certifi­cates from the united states.

Contact the local police department in your home country for instructions on how to get police certificates. To obtain police certificates from nations other than your home country, contact the nearest consulate representing that country for instructions. some nations refuse to sup­ply police certificates, or their certificates are not considered reliable, and so you will not be required to obtain them from those locations. The U. S. consulate will tell you from which countries police cer­tificates are not required.


Some countries will send certificates directly to U. S. consulates but not to you personally. Before they send the certifi­cates out, however, you must request that it be done. usually this requires fil­ing some type of request form, together with a set of your fingerprints.

Fingerprints. A few consulates require you to submit fingerprints, though most do not. Consulates wanting fingerprints will send you instructions.

Photos. You must bring to the inter­view two photographs of you and two photographs of each accompanying child. They must be taken in compliance with the consulate’s instructions (u. s “passport style”). Often your information packet will contain a list of local pho­tographers who take this type of picture. If your religious beliefs require wearing a head covering, you should be able to keep it on for the photo. However, your eyes and face must still be visible, and you must submit a written statement explaining why you can’t submit a stan­dard photograph.

Medical exam. Immediately be­fore your visa interview, you and your accompanying children will be required to have medical examinations. Some consulates conduct the medical exams up to several days before the interview. others schedule the medical exam and the interview on the same day. You will be told where to go and what to do in your appointment letter.

The medical examinations are con­ducted by private doctors. The fees vary from $50 to more than $150 per exam, depending on the country. The fee will be stated in your appointment letter. The exam itself involves taking a medical history, blood test, chest X-ray, and vac­cinations, if required. Although pregnant women can refuse to be X-rayed until after the pregnancy, the requirement to have an X-ray taken cannot be waived entirely. The vaccination requirement may be waived for religious, moral, or medical reasons.

The main purpose of the medical exam is to verify that you are not medi­cally inadmissible. The primary medical grounds of inadmissibility are tuber­culosis and HIV (AIDS). Some medical grounds of inadmissibility can be over­come with treatment or by applying for a waiver. (See Chapter 3 for details.) If you need a medical waiver, you will be given complete instructions by the consulate at the time of your interview, but should also consult an experienced immigration attorney.

Affidavit of support. As part of over­coming the grounds of inadmissibility, you will have to show that you will not become a public charge (go on wel­fare) in the United States. Normally, the consulate will ask your fiance to fill out an Affidavit of Support on Form I-134. You actually have a choice between two forms: Form I-134 and a much longer one, Form I-864. The only reason to consider submitting the longer one at this stage is that all K-1 visa applicants will eventually have no choice but to submit Form I-864 with their green card applica­tion in the united states.

In cases where the level of financial support is clearly not a problem, you could submit the I-864 in support of the K visa to avoid duplicating your efforts. on the other hand, there are advantages to using the old I-134 initially, and then using the I-864 during the u. s. green card application. The main advantage is that Form I-134 is not considered legally enforceable. In other words, the u. s. government is very unlikely to go after whoever signs the I-134 for reimburse­ment if the immigrant ends up need­ing public benefits. That’s a particular advantage if your U. S. citizen fiance can’t satisfy the financial requirements to be a sponsor and you need to convince a friend or family member to sign an addi­tional affidavit of support on your behalf.

See Chapter 3 for more information on filling out Form I-864 and overcom­ing the public charge ground of inad­missibility.

One-Year Time limit for Asylum Application

You must file an asylum application within one year after you arrive in the u. s. to be eligible for asylum.

There are a few exceptions. If you did not file your asylum application within the one-year filing deadline, you can still apply for asylum if you can show either changed circumstances that have a major effect on your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances for why your application wasn’t filed on time. Changed circumstances can include changes in conditions in your country; extraordinary circumstances can include events or fac­tors beyond your control that caused the late filing.

Also, informal USCIS policy is to not consider the time you spend on a valid visa (as a student, for example) to count toward the one year. However, you must apply within a “reasonable time” of the visa’s expiration—don’t wait a whole year!