R-1 Visa for Religious Workers

The R-1 visa is one of the temporary worker categories, and it allows a religious organization to file an application on behalf of an experienced religious worker or minister. The holder of the R-1 visa is then allowed to travel to the United States and work for that religious organization for a maximum period of 5 years. The R-1 visa category is one of the best ways for religious organizations to bridge the gap between international borders and immigration policies. It allows a religious organization to hire experienced members who are now serving the religious denomination in foreign countries.

Our immigration lawyers are highly skilled, experienced and knowledgeable about what it takes to get an approval for the R-1 visa. Helping a religious worker come to the United States is a rewarding feeling, and we get a sense of joy from being able to be the ones who are able to bring the ministers and specialized workers that a US religious organization needs. An immigration lawyer from our firm will dedicate the necessary time and attention to ensure that your visa application fulfills all of the requirements that immigration officials look for.

The requirements for the R-1 visa application can be somewhat complex, especially upon an initial look. However, we provide this article as a summary of some of the background requirements for the R-1 visa. It cannot serve as a substitute for an actual consultation because the one missing component is your own story. The R-1 visa can be seen as having two main parts, one for qualifying the religious worker and the other for qualifying the religious organization. Please note that the R-1 visa is one of the visa applications that require a petitioner. A petitioner is the employer on the temporary worker visas, and they are usually attesting to the fact that they are willing to employ the immigrant worker upon arrival in the United States.

There are two types of people that can qualify as R-1 visa applicants: the minister and the religious worker. The minister must be fully trained by the religious denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by the ministers of the denomination. They must only perform those activities that are related to being a minister. Also, the minister may not hold any other jobs while in the United States. Ministers can be involved with administrative work in the place of worship. They must work solely as a minister, even if they are working only part time.

The other type of R1 visa applicant is the religious worker. For religious workers, it must be proven that the religious worker was a member of the religious denomination for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of the R-1 visa application. The religious workers must be coming to the United States to perform duties related to a traditional religious function, which is recognized as a religious occupation within the denomination. A religious worker may not be one that is here to perform only administrative duties or support duties, such as janitors, maintenance workers, clerical jobs, or any other unskilled jobs. Please note that like the ministers, the evidentiary proof required must be able to show that they had a previous relationship with the petitioning religious organization.

The other major part of the R-1 visa application requirements is about verifying the religious organization as a bona fide non-profit organization, according to the laws of whatever state they reside in. If the religious organization is a tax exempt corporation, then documents pertaining to that classification must be filed with the R-1 visa, and also any formation documents must be submitted, like the articles of incorporation or bylaws of the organization. On the contrary, if the religious organization is not an official non-profit, then the following documents have to be filed along with the R-1 visa application: a current determination letter from the IRS, documents pertaining to the religious nature of the organization, and any literature from the organization. Your immigration lawyer will be able to help you gather all of the necessary documents.

Additionally, there has to be some proof about compensating these religious workers. For this, your immigration attorney will ask your petitioner for proof of how these missionary or religious worker programs has worked in the past. In addition, your visa application would be strengthened by the following pieces of evidence: past evidence of compensation for similar positions, budgets showing funds set aside for salaries, evidence that room and board will be provided, and IRS documentation such as W2 forms.

On the other hand, if the religious worker will not be compensated, there has be copies of the religious worker’s financial documents, such as bank account records, and any budgets documenting the source of the self-support. One of the major concerns of the US immigration system is to avoid bringing immigrants to the United States who will not be able to support themselves.

Our immigration lawyers have a high success rate filing these types of applications, and we credit our high success rate to the care and attention that we display for each visa application that goes through our law firm. An immigration lawyer from our firm often shares about how the R-1 visa application is among his favorites, because he believes he is fulfilling a role that not many people can. Contact us today for a free consultation and talk to one of our immigration lawyers. The advise they give will put you on the right path in this journey of immigration.

R-1 Visa is a foreign national who is coming to the U.S. temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the U.S. (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation. To qualify for an R1 visa, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the R-1 visa petition.

Period of Stay Under R-1 Visa

R-1 visa status can be granted for an initial period of up to 30 months. Extension of an R-1 visa status may be granted for an additional 30 months. The total stay in the U.S. in an R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months (5 years).

Family of R-1 Visa Holders

R-1 visa worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for R-2 visa classification.  The dependents of an R-1 visa worker may not accept employment while in the United States in R2 visa status.

Green Cards Following the R-1 Visa

For information about petitioning for a permanent immigrant religious worker, see the EB-4 category.

Mr. Galstyan, an experienced immigration attorney, has successfully handled many R-1 visa cases. Our firm has the knowledge and experience to get you an R-1 visa. We prepare and file your petition along with the required documentation as well as supporting evidence to ensure that your case is approved with the USCIS. Please contact our office for your free, no obligation consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss your R-1 visa case.

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