Security Gaffes

Evangelical schools worry over post-9/11 visa rules.

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, a tenured professor of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, says he is happy to be back home in California following a month-long exile to his native Finland.

Kärkkäinen, along with his wife, Anne, and two daughters, returned to Pasadena on September 5. They had been forced to leave the United States on July 31 when the Department of Homeland Security revoked Kärkkäinen's "special immigrant religious worker" visa.

Immigration officials, now under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security, questioned Fuller's tax-exempt status. They ruled that Kärkkäinen's role as a seminary professor was not a "traditional religious occupation." They also claimed that Kärkkäinen, who has two doctorates and two master's degrees and served as president and theology professor at IsoKirja College in Keuruu, Finland, did not have the necessary experience for his position.

First learning that Kärkkäinen's visa would be revoked last December, Fuller appealed. The courts clarified Fuller's tax-exempt status and Kärkkäinen's status in a "traditional religious occupation" in his favor. But immigration officials ruled that the records Fuller submitted about Kärkkäinen's work in Finland were not specific enough.

And two new problems arose during the appeal. Since Fuller is an interdenominational seminary, it did not fit under new post-9/11 rules, which require that schools be affiliated with specific denominations. Also, as Fuller does not have an official relationship with the Pentecostal church that ordained Kärkkäinen, he did not qualify as a religious worker.

Kärkkäinen returned under a less-restrictive visa category. ...

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Security Gaffes
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November 2004

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