The R1 Visa for Religious Workers

An R1 visa is for religious workers who wish to come to a religious institution in the United States. Even nuns or monks, cantors and workers in religious hospitals can apply. Not all religious workers are eligible though like visas for administrative or support staff. The applicant can belong to any religious denomination in the United States, so long as he has been a member for two years before filing their petition. They must work at least 20 hours a week. A denomination refers to a religious community that is governed by an ecclesiastical government. Such institutions are typically tax exempt. An appropriate letter must be obtained from the IRS. That letter can be used to show exemptions that would otherwise be eligible for a taxed status.

Dual Intent Status

The religious worker can dual intent status for purposes of obtaining a green card. The intent can be changed without the issue coming into the picture, forms 1-360 will be required as will a Form 1-489. As there is no annual cap for an R1 visa as long as you meet the requirements. The R1 is not a self-petitioning document. Somebody will need to petition you to come to the United States to work. A form 1-129 form is in order. They might also travel freely to and from the United States, and receive payment for services performed.

Documents Required for an R1 Visa

The documents required for an R1 visa must be submitted and approved by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. An appropriate interview is mandatory. The documents follow

  • Form 1-129 immigration visa with supporting documents.
  • Proof that you are employed as a minister or other functionary in the United States. The position must be bona fide and for non-profit religious services that is tax exempt.
  • Proof that you’ve been a member of such an organization for two years.
  • A contract between the employer and employee.
  • Proof that the employee will be able to support himself or herself and their family.
  • Letter of recommendation to support the case
  • IRS verification of tax-exempt status.
  • Evidence that you’re qualified to work is the position.
  • Documents showing arrangements for financial support.

The fee for an RS visa $190. The fee for an R2 visa also $150 for each of them. Additional fees will apply if a green cart is sought.

If a foreign national is seeking to temporarily enter the United States in the capacity of a religious worker, an R-1 Visa is necessary. Such workers include individuals who are authorized to conduct religious ceremonies and perform duties that are ordinarily performed by clergy members of a particular religion or denomination thereof. Anybody seeking an R-1 Visa must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be a member of a recognized religious denomination that is recognized as a bona fide not-for-profit religious organization under United States law.
  • That denomination or affiliate must be either exempt from paying U.S. income taxes or qualify for tax-exempt status.
  • The person must be a member of his or her denomination for at least two years before applying for the R-1 Visa, intend on becoming a minister or religious worker for a bona fide nonprofit religious organization and reside outside of the United States for two years next preceding the application for an R-1 Visa. 

Petitioning for the R Visa

The religious organization that the individual will be working for will begin the R-1 Visa process by filing a Form I-129 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services no longer than six months before the individual’s anticipated start date. That Form I-129 must be approved before a visa can be applied for in the U.S. embassy or consulate in the proposed worker’s home country. An interview will be required, and the individual must bring his or her Form I-129 receipt number with him or her to the interview.

What the Individual Must Submit

The application process for an R-1 Visa requires the religious worker to submit the following at the time of submission of his or her application:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (Form DS-160).
  • A passport allowing travel to the United States that’s valid at lease six months after the religious worker’s intended departure from the United States.
  • Two 5 x 5 cm passport photos of the religious worker.
  • A receipt evidencing payment of the U.S. nonimmigrant processing fee paid in local currency.
  • The receipt number on the approved Form I-129 petition.
  • A letter from USCIS confirming your appointment.
  • Any and all confirmatory documentation in support of your Form 1-129 that might assist officials in making a decision. Other documentation like educational qualifications, how the individual will be paid and a statement of assets of the religious organization are likely to be required.

Length of Stay

An R-1 Visa is typically issued for 30 months. That stay can be extended for additional 30 -month periods with a maximum of five years. A spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can be petitioned into the United States under the R-2 classification, but under R-2, they will not be allowed to work in the country. 

A simple error or omission in the petitioning process can cause a visa petition to be delayed or even denied. Every step of the process must be fully complied with. The California Central Valley immigration lawyers at Maison Law Immigration Lawyers can be crucial in obtaining approval of R-1 and R-2 Visas. We can assist you with completing and filing the required forms and documentation for religious workers and their family members. Our Central Valley immigration lawyers will work with you every step of the way while keeping you continually advised on status. The R-1 process is confusing, complicated and burdensome. Contact us for a consultation, and we can talk about your situation and helping you obtain a religious worker visa. We recognize the fact that America was founded on strong religious beliefs.

Learn more about other types of Visas