March 20, 2009
President Obama has signed the extension of the Religious Workers program allowing non-ministers to submit applications for permanent residency. Commonly known as the "religious workers sunset," the provision allows non-ministerial religious workers such as nuns, brothers, cantors, religious school teachers to apply for permanent residency. The extension is set to sunset again on September 29, 2009.
The non-minister category is a different category than the one providing for the immigration of ordained minsters and requires extensions of its validity every two years. For the past year however, Congress has extended the program twice, each time for a period of 6 months. In years past, extensions were granted for 2 years at a time.
The Religious Worker Visa Program became law in 1990 and was originally enacted with a sunset provision, meaning that the non-minister category would und unless extended by Congress. It has always enjoyed broad, bipartisan support and reauthorized many times since its the program began.