Washington, D.C.—In a bipartisan effort to resolve lengthy visa processing times for religious workers who provide vital services in communities nationwide, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken today. The Senators’ letter urged Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken to take action and facilitate the processing of visa petitions for religious workers.
“For the last several years, religious organizations in the United States have experienced hardship due to severe backlogs in the processing of religious worker visa petitions and related immigration benefits,” Senators Collins and Kaine wrote. “Unfortunately, this has resulted in many religious workers already in the United States having to leave the communities they serve or cease working for fear of violating immigration law. There are many more religious workers waiting outside of the United States, unable to serve in our communities. These challenges have been compounded by COVID-19-related suspensions of visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world in 2020 and 2021, resulting in lengthy visa processing wait times for religious workers seeking to complete consular processing abroad.”
Religious workers perform important work that greatly benefits American communities, including: providing basic necessities for those in need, such as food and shelter; caring for and ministering to the sick, aged, and dying in hospitals and special facilities; working with adolescents and young adults; assisting religious leaders as they lead their congregations and communities in worship; counseling those who have suffered severe trauma and hardship; accompanying families, particularly when they are in crisis; helping refugees and immigrants in the United States adjust to a new way of life; and serving as principals, teachers, and school support staff, often in schools located in economically disadvantaged areas, where many have provided full-time, in-person instruction throughout the pandemic.
Senators Collins and Kaine enclosed a letter that a group of 17 religious organizations sent to the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in August with a number of policy suggestions regarding religious worker visas. The Senators encouraged Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken to consider the recommendations in order to improve processing times.
Click HERE to read Senators Collins and Kaine’s letter.