Editor's Note: This is one of a continuing series of stories on pastor's tools from Ministry Today magazine's special May/June issue, MinistryToday 21.
What does it take to run a church today? The pastor just starting out in ministry may be surprised by the answer. While it's important to keep kingdom purposes at the forefront, experienced church leaders have found that a pastor's toolkit consists of many instruments that are helpful in doing the work of the ministry today.
We have pooled some of our own talent to answer that question and have asked a number of businesses to give their take on what 21 tools the pastor needs to know are available for meeting today's congregational needs.
Immigration is a currently a hot-button issue in the United States. Regardless of one's position in the political and legal debate, it is important for pastors and ministry leaders to know how to utilize immigration law and, therefore, immigration lawyers, to better serve their members. This article will focus on two areas of immigration law relevant to Christian leaders: the religious worker visa and religious asylum.
The religious worker visa, or the "R-1" visa, allows a qualified foreign-born minister or member of a religious occupation or vocation to enter and reside in the United States to work for a religious organization. The R-1 visa is a valuable tool that allows churches and ministries in the United States to tap into the wealth of ministry knowledge and experience all over the world. In order to hire a foreign-born religious worker, the ministry must petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) on behalf of the religious worker. USCIS often applies a high level of scrutiny to these petitions, so it behooves a church or religious organization to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable and trustworthy immigration attorney who can help ensure the preparation of a strong petition.
Asylum, on the other hand, is a humanitarian benefit available to an individual who fears persecution in her home country, either by the government or by those the government cannot control, because of her religious faith. To obtain asylum, the person who fears persecution must apply to USCIS within one year of entering the United States (although there are some exceptions to this rule), and the process can be grueling and unforgiving. Churches in the United States are often called upon to serve as a place of refuge and hope for persecuted Christians from all over the world, and in order to serve this population well, church leaders should be quick to refer them to an immigration attorney who can guide them through the asylum process. Many individuals who qualify for asylum struggle through and prolong the process because they decide to apply on their own or they receive inadequate and even harmful assistance.
The religious worker visa and the availability of religious asylum are just two of the many reasons that church and ministry leaders would do well to include "immigration lawyer" on their list of "must-have" ministry tools. Immigration is a complicated and expansive area of law, and there are many facets of it that can affect the members of a church or ministry. An immigration lawyer can help a ministry navigate the complexities of immigration in order to help it grow and serve its members well.
Christine M. Brimmer, Esq., is an Immigration and Refugee Attorney with Just Law International PC in Richmond, Virginia.
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