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Special Visas and Religious Visas Attorneys

In addition to the more widely-known and conventional visa programs, the United States offers a variety of lesser-known visa programs available to specific populations. These programs include the Special Immigrant Visa program and the visa program for religious workers. Learn more about what it takes to qualify for either of these, and if you’re ready to start your immigration paperwork, call Castillo & Associates at 800-497-9774.

What is a Special Immigrant Visa?

The Special Immigrant Visa program is one intended to help Afghan individuals who have helped the United States Armed Forces during the war in Afghanistan. Individuals who helped the United States are at significant risk of harm as a result of the United States leaving the country, and the SIV program gives them a way to flee the country safely. There are two categories of SIVs. The first is for translators and interpreters who worked alongside the U.S. Armed Forces. The second category is for any other Afghan professional that supported the United States Armed Forces during the war in Afghanistan. There is a set number of visas allowed under this program, although Congress has introduced bills raising the ceiling to allow more immigrants to enter.

How to Apply for This Visa

Before applying, ensure that you meet all qualifications. The applicant must be an Afghan national who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces for at least one year between 2001 and the end of 2023. They must have served as an interpreter or translator, or otherwise performed sensitive and trusted activities for the military. They must also receive a positive letter of recommendation from their senior supervisor, and those applying for the second type of visa must be facing serious danger as a result of their work with the U.S. government.

Note that this process has become significantly more unstable since Afghanistan was taken by the Taliban. The U.S. government can obviously no longer process SIV applications in Kabul, so applicants must travel to a third country with the capacity to process visa applications and submit their paperwork there.

The process is complex and very time-consuming. The applicant has to submit initial petition documents, extensive family records, and proof of their work on behalf of the U.S. government. As a result, the wait time from application to approval could be years. Working with an attorney throughout this process is one option to streamline the process.

Visa Options for Religious Workers

The United States also provides visas for religious workers. The R-1 visa is open to ministers and religious workers, as well as their spouses and children. Applicants must be coming to the United States in order to perform specific religious work or serve as minister in a church or other religious facility.

The R-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows the recipient to stay in the United States for up to 30 months. However, the visa can be extended an additional 30 months for a maximum stay of five years. There is a 12-month waiting period from leaving the country to reapplying for another R-1 visa.

Qualifying for an R-1 Visa

A qualified applicant will work in a religious career and plan on entering the United States on behalf of a nonprofit religious organization. They must intend to return to their home country upon expiration of their visa.

During the application process, plan on showing proof of your role within your organization and your standing in it. You’ll need to show that you are employed by the nonprofit organization, that it is tax-exempt, that you have been a part of the religious denomination for no less than two years, and that you will work for at least 20 hours per week.

This type of visa requires extensive documentation and proof of both your work role and your religion. Failing to provide the proper documentation could result in your visa being denied and your work in the United States being delayed. It’s crucial to work with an experienced immigration attorney who knows what type of documentation is accepted and what it takes to get an application approved.

Reach Out to Castillo & Associates Now

Whether you want to apply for an SIV visa as an Afghan national who supported the United States or an R-1 visa as a religious worker, having a strong legal team beside you can streamline the entire process. Send us a message online or call us at 800-497-9774 to get started.

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