Are you a foreign citizen who is also a religious worker?
Do you want to come to live and work permanently in the U.S. on an immigrant visa?
If “Yes” is your answer to both of the questions above, then you might qualify for the SD visa (the immigrant visa for religious workers)! The Immigration and Nationality Act has two types of visas for religious workers: one for temporary status (see the chapter titled, “The R Visa”) and one for legal permanent resident status, known as the SD visa (or SD status) in the U.S.. Religious workers include ministers, priests, and religious brothers and sisters who are authorized by a recognized, non-profit denomination to perform religious duties. The minister or religious worker can apply individually or through their church to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO QUALIFY FOR AN SD VISA?
The religious worker must have worked continuously for the religious denomination or an affiliated organization for at least two years immediately before the time of the visa application. Work performed as a member of this religious organization in the U.S., or another country will apply toward fulfilling this two-year requirement.
The religious worker must want to enter the U.S. only to work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation. The applicant must carry on his or her professional vocation in a religious organization for at least two years continuously, following receipt of the SD visa. 163
WHAT DOCUMENTS DO I NEED TO SHOW TO BE ELIGIBLE?
The applicant must file a Form I-360 petition with the USCIS. The applicant or any person within the organization can file this form. The applicant must meet the religious worker criteria, which may be documented by various petitions. A letter must accompany the petitions from an authorized official of the religious organization, establishing that the applicant is a religious worker and a member of that religious organization. Additionally, there must be evidence establishing that the religious organization is not-for-profit in the U.S. and exempt from taxation.
CAN I BRING MY SPOUSE AND/OR CHILDREN WITH ME TO THE U.S. ON AN SD VISA?
Yes, one’s spouse and children under 21 years old may apply for visas, based upon their family relationship to the applicant.
If you are a religious worker – a priest, rabbi, minister, religious brother or sister, or another clergy member – and wish to live and work permanently in the U.S. as a professional in your religious field, the SD visa will allow you to do so. Specific requirements must be met to qualify for SD status (for example, a minimum of two years of continuous religious work with the denomination you’re affiliated with), and some verifying documents must accompany the SD visa application. The spouse and minor children of a religious worker are also able to apply for visas, based on their family relationship to the religious worker.