For Disciples Pastors

Full Immigration Legal Representation

We provide full representation to Disciples regions and churches petitioning for pastors in nonimmigrant religious worker cases (R-1 visas) and special immigrant religious worker cases (green cards for religious workers).  Assistance in other case types is considered on a case-by-case basis as capacity allows.


There are no attorneys’ fees charged for these legal services thanks to the support of multiple ministries, including the Disciples Missions Fund, Week of Compassion, among many others.


Pastors and seminarians, please contact Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel directly to discuss your situation.

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R-1 Visas

Nonimmigrant Visas

The R-1 visa is a temporary visa, called a nonimmigrant visa. It allows a religious worker to live and work in the U.S. for up to thirty months and is renewable for up to five years. The R-1 visa holder is allowed to work only for the employer (a church or region) that petitioned for her. Her spouse and minor children may qualify for R-2 visas as her dependents. Dependents with R-2 status may live in the U.S., but they are not allowed to work.


A region or church files a petition and supporting evidence with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). The religious worker cannot file the petition for herself. If the petition is approved, the religious worker may then apply to enter the U.S. on an R-1 visa or change to R-1 status, depending on whether she is abroad or already lawfully in the U.S.


To be eligible for R-1 status, a religious worker must:

  • have been a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) or its affiliates abroad for at least the past 2 years,

  • have a job offer in the U.S. to do compensated “religious work” for at least 20 hours per week,

  • have the support of the regional office and the church

  • be “admissible” to the U.S. (This depends on the individual’s immigration and criminal history, if any.), and

  • intend to leave the U.S. when the status expires

  • meet other requirements

Special Immigrant Religious Worker

Immigrant Visa

The Special Immigrant Religious Worker category leads to a permanent immigration status. It allows a religious worker to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence, known as a green card. As a Lawful Permanent Resident, a religious worker may live in the U.S. indefinitely and work for any employer. His spouse and minor children may qualify as his dependents and also obtain green cards.


A region or church files a petition for the religious worker. In certain cases, the religious worker may instead file the petition for himself. If the petition is approved, the religious worker may then apply for Lawful Permanent Residence. If the religious worker is abroad, he applies at the U.S. consulate. If he is already lawfully in the U.S., he applies through a process called adjustment of status.


To be eligible for the Special Immigrant Religious Worker category, a religious worker must:

  • have been a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) or its affiliates abroad for at least the past 2 years,

  • have been working full time doing compensated “religious work” for at least the past 2 years,

  • have a job offer in the U.S. to do compensated religious work for at least 35 hours per week,

  • have the support of the regional office and the church, and

  • be “admissible” to the U.S. (This depends on the individual’s immigration and criminal history, if any.)

  • meet other requirements

WARNING:

Petitioning for any type of immigration benefit, especially for religious workers, is a complicated and time-intensive process. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been especially hesitant to grant these types of visas. All cases are now subject to rigorous scrutiny, including a site visit from the Fraud Detection and National Security Unit, which may take place at any time during the lifespan of a case. Contact Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel for a consultation to determine if you are eligible and to prepare for this process.

Request a Consultation

kindly allow one business day for response

Note that Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel is only one attorney, so your patience and understanding are appreciated.  This link is for a confidential questionnaire that will be used to find the best time and manner with which to speak with you.  Please allow at least one business day for response.  All information shared in the consultation is, and will remain, confidential.  Finally, thank you for sharing your Disciples affiliation to qualify for this service.

Resources for Pastors

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Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

Besides powerful advocacy initiatives, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries also provides migrant focused worship and biblical materials.  Also, there is an incredible collection of the former Immigrant Led Weekly Online Bible Studies, organized and led by former Disciples Immigration Response Specialist Valeria Bejar in 2020.

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Interfaith Immigration Coalition

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) is a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform that reflects our mandate to welcome the stranger and treat all human beings with dignity and respect. Coalition members work together to advocate for just and equitable immigration policies, educate faith communities, and serve immigrant populations around the country.

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Disciples Partners

​We are grateful to the many partners who support our work, including:

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Well-Fed Spirit

The Well-Fed Spirit includes spiritual formation & wellness resources for clergy and lay-persons from the Christian tradition and our wider spiritual communities.  It is affiliated with the Office of Christian Vocations of the Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ), a ministry within Disciples Home Missions.

For mental health resources specific for the migrant experience: