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R-1 (Temporary Religious Workers) Visa

The R-1 Visa is designed for religious workers who wish to enter the United States temporarily to perform religious duties or work in a religious vocation or occupation. The non-immigrant visa allows foreign individuals who have job offers from a U.S.-based religious organization.

With this visa, the foreign individual can temporarily perform their religious duties in the U.S. and return to their home country after the specified period. The R-1 visa duration is usually for an initial period of up to 30 months (2.5 years) and a maximum total stay of 5 years upon visa extension.

A religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children who are under age 21 can apply to come with the worker to the U.S. Religious workers who want to get a green card can use the R-1 Visa as a stepping stone.

How to Apply for the R-1 Visa

The USCIS has stipulated the application procedure for any foreign individual applying for the R-1 Visa, as it is with every other visa category. The application process for the R-1 visa includes:

  1. Determine the eligibility of both the religious worker and the sponsoring organization.
  2. Prepare the necessary documents required for the application process. This typically includes:
    1. Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker – to be filed by the sponsoring organization on behalf of the religious worker.
    2. Letter of Support from the religious organization detailing the organization’s activities, and how the foreign worker’s employment will further their mission.
    3. Evidence of tax-exempt status from the religious organization.
    4. Certificates, or other evidence to prove the religious worker’s qualifications.
  3. File the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
  4. USCIS review and processing.
  5. Attend a Biometric appointment if required by the USCIS.
  6. Await USCIS decision on the visa petition.
  7. Visa interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy
  8. Visa issuance upon approval.
  9. Enter the United States.

Some applications may have unique processes involved that can help the application’s success. It is advisable to consult an immigration attorney to help with the application for better chances of approval.

Visa applications from some countries are denied more often than others. These countries are called “high-denial countries.” If you are applying from a high-denial country, you might want to apply for a different religious worker visa, like the EB-4 Immigrant Visa.

Organizations that Qualify for the R-1 Visa

Religious workers applying for an R-1 Visa must be associated with qualifying religious organizations. Churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other recognized places of worship, are primary candidates for sponsoring R-1 Visas. However, the religious organization must:

  • Prove that it is a nonprofit religious organization, or at least connected to a religious organization.
  • Demonstrate a genuine and established presence in the United States via tax-exempt status, incorporation papers, evidence of regular religious activities, etc.
  • Explain how the worker will be paid.
  • Have a legitimate, active congregation or membership.
  • Be recognized as a bona fide religious organization under U.S. law.

Some non-religious organizations that are non-profits may also qualify to sponsor the R-1 visa. However, they must be affiliated with a recognized religious denomination or association and engage in charitable or missionary work.

Evaluating the qualifications of an organization may be tricky. However an expert immigration professional can help evaluate properly.

Requirements for Religious Workers

To qualify for an R-1 Visa, the applicant must:

  • Be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States.
  • Have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years before the R-1 visa application.
  • Have a job offer from a U.S.-based religious organization to work in a religious capacity. This job offer should outline the duties and responsibilities they will undertake within the organization.
  • Possess the necessary credentials and experience to fulfill the duties outlined in their job offer.
  • Intend to work solely as a religious worker in the United States during the visa period.
  • Prove they have at least a part-time job.
  • Explain the relationship between the organization in their home country and the organization in the U.S.

Related Read: How to Immigrate to the USA Without a Job Offer

Duration and Extensions of the R-1 Visa

With the R-1 Visa, you can temporarily perform your religious duties in the U.S. and return to your home country after the specified period. The R-1 visa duration is usually for an initial period of up to 30 months (2.5 years) and a maximum total stay of 5 years upon visa extension. However, the exact duration may vary depending on the specifics of the petition and individual circumstances.

To qualify for an extension, the religious worker must continue to meet the eligibility criteria set forth by the USCIS as highlighted in the requirements above. Applying for extensions early enough is advised to avoid the expiry of the active visa before extension approval.

Contact CFUIS – Religious Workers (R-1) Visa Attorney

The process of obtaining an R-1 Visa may be tedious even for experienced immigration attorneys. Foreign religious workers must plan ahead to be able to receive or extend their visas. We can help you file the right forms at the right time and answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 813-298-7222, chat on WhatsApp, email us, fill out our contact form, or schedule an appointment.