Religious Worker (R-1)
R-1 visa covers aliens coming to the United States temporarily as religious workers. Examples of persons in religious occupations include, but are not limited to, liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious healthcare facilities, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. This group does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fundraisers, or persons involved solely in the solicitation of donations.
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Criteria for Determining Religious Worker's Eligibility
- A minister,
- A person working in a professional capacity in a religious occupation or vocation, or
- A person who works for a religious organization or an affiliate in a religious occupation who has been a member of the religious group for at least the two years immediately preceding the application for admission
- A person who plans to enter the U.S. solely to carry on the vocation of a minister of that denomination or at the request of the organization, is entering the U.S. to work in a religious profession, occupation or vocation for the denomination or for an organization affiliated with the denominations
- A person who has resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for the immediate prior year if he has previously spent five years in the U.S. in the R1 classification
- You intend to leave the U.S. on completion of your authorized stay
To be eligible for sponsoring an R1 visa, your employer must be a bona fide non-profit religious organization, which is exempt from taxation or a religious organization that has never sought such exemptions, but would otherwise be eligible for such status.
- Religious workers do not have to maintain foreign residence and show intent to return to their home country while applying for the visa; 2. Family members of ministers and religious workers can enter in the R-2 category and remain as long as they are in R-1 status, and their children can also attend school; 3. Religious workers can travel in and out of the U.S. freely, provided they have a valid visa; and 4. They can obtain their visa from an American Consulate abroad with prior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval.
The petition may be filed by an authorized official of the U.S. organization and must be filed with American Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. If visa exempt, the alien may apply at a port of entry. If the alien is inside the U.S., the religious organization may use the I-129 to petition for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment.
Duration of Stay
You may use Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to apply for extension of stay. Extension may be authorized for a period of up to two years. Your total period of stay may not exceed five years.
Petition Document Requirements
The petition may be filed by an authorized official of the U.S. organization and must be filed with:
- A written statement from an authorized official of the religious organization that will be employing the alien establishing that the alien has been a member of the denomination for the required two years;
- a description of the proposed position, and that the alien is qualified for the position;
- the arrangements, if any, for salary, benefits, and other compensation;
- the name and location of the place the alien will provide the services;
- the organization's affiliation with the denomination;
- (note: if the alien is to be employed, the USCIS requires that this letter be from the organizational unit responsible for maintaining I-9's); Evidence showing that the religious organization or any affiliate which will engage the alien's services is a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the U.S. and is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
Entry into the U.S.
A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to deny admission at the port of entry to any applicant who is inadmissible under INA, even if the applicant has a visa. Also, the CBP, not the consular officer, determines the period for which the bearer of a temporary work visa is authorized to remain in the United States. At the port of entry, CBP officials issue Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay, however, is made solely by the USCIS. Applicants should be aware of these points.