Skip to main content

Immigration Issues

Legal Services


Information, Advice, and Representation

The Office of Immigration Issues was created by the 216th General Assembly (2004) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to provide “reliable advice and counsel to presbyteries and pastors whose members have immigration problems.”

The Office provides general information about immigration law to all Presbyterian mid-councils, churches, and entities. When non-resident religious workers are coming to work for the Presbyterian Church, the Office can provide legal representation. Please reach out to Teresa Waggener if you are a Presbyterian entity with an immigration question.

Teresa Waggener: 502-709-1716 |

Presbyteries and Religious Workers

Presbyteries can play an important role in the life of a pastor, youth minister, music minister, or Christian educator from another nation. This includes securing proper immigration status and so much more. As pastors are minister members of presbytery, the presbytery is often the body that petitions for a pastor to gain a religious worker visa. Presbyteries set minimum compensation for pastoral calls and can ensure that all pastors, regardless of nationality, are being compensated accordingly. Presbyteries are responsible for supporting the witness of their congregations. This can include offering opportunities for congregations to engage training on race and intercultural development so that all God's creation can be involved in bringing about a new creation.

Finally, presbyteries are pastor, counselor, and advisor to pastors, commissioned ruling elders, and Christian educators. Religious workers from other nations come with unique gifts and unique pastoral care needs. They have left friends and family behind and are often subject to the sin of xenophobia. Please call if you are considering hiring a religious worker in need of immigration status.

Why Immigration Status Matters

Immigration status affects a person's ability to remain and work in the United States. Different statuses allow for different duties and hours of work. For instance, a person here under a religious worker visa can work at the religious organization who applied for them but cannot also use that same visa to do the same kind of work for another religious organization. Work that is not allowed under a particular immigration status is called "unauthorized work." Unauthorized work can harm an individual's ability to remain in the U.S. As people of faith, we must be cautious and not ask people to engage in behavior that could harm their immigration status. 

So how does one know if a call or position could harm the immigration status of another? People come to the U.S. for a variety of reasons and in a variety of statuses. A person may carry documentation of this with them and may be able to tell you the title or letter associated with their immigration status but, even with this information, you may not know if they are allowed to work for the church. Fortunately, your denomination has an immigration attorney on staff. I am happy to help you assess a position and an individual’s circumstances to determine if there is a path available so that they may accept a call or position in the church.

More information

  • Religious Worker Visa Fact Page 
  • Work Eligibility Flow Chart
  • If the worker is of another denomination, please also consider enrolling in the PC(USA) Equip Course, “Ministers of Other Churches.” Mid Council leaders can do this by logging into Equip. The course can be found in “Mid Council Leaders Resources.”