HIAS Applauds Measure Allowing Jewish Community to Hire and Retain Critical Foreign Religious Workers

Posted on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 15:49 pm

(Washington, D.C.) – HIAS, the global migration agency of the American Jewish community, applauds the enactment today of a bill extending the Religious Worker Visa Program (RWVP), portions of which were scheduled to expire this weekend. The RWVP was extended for three years through September 30, 2015.

"This is an important step in ensuring that the Jewish community can keep the dedicated and experienced teachers and other foreign religious workers on whom we rely," said Mark Hetfield, President and CEO (Interim) of HIAS. "HIAS has worked diligently to ensure that this program remains open and available to the Jewish community, and is appreciative of the leadership shown by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in making sure this program did not lapse."

Under the program, up to 5,000 permanent immigrant visas are available each year for religious workers employed by a broad range of religious denominations and organizations. Religious communities that participate in the program have found these special visas vital to carrying out their work. Jewish congregations rely on rabbis, cantors, kosher butchers, Hebrew school teachers, and other religious workers who come from abroad through the religious worker program. Without them, many Jewish communities would find it more difficult to sustain the institutions and practices essential to Jewish religious and communal life. The Religious Worker Visa Program first became law in 1990. Originally enacted with a sunset provision, it has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and has been reauthorized seven times.