USA and the UK
What is an R1 Visa?
The R1 category is a religious visa for foreign members of non-profit vocational associations. To be eligible, you must provide evidence of your professional role and your planned activities in the U.S.
This permit is not available to lay preachers. The same applies to other religious workers who have not received an offer of employment from an organization In the U.S.
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What are the R1 requirements?
The R1 Visa is addressed to foreign nationals who wish to enter the U.S. to work as religious workers. To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be employed in a vocational occupation for at least 20 hours per week
- Have dedicated your life to religious practices and functions
- Have been a member of any religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years before your petition
- Have received an offer from a non-profit religious organization in the U.S.
Can an R1 Visa holder apply for a Green Card?
Like other non-immigrant visas, the R1 is not a dual intent visa and does not lead to permanent residency.
If you wish to adjust your status, you may apply for an EB4 visa. This is a permanent work permit open to particular categories, such as vocational occupations.
There is a 5,000 cap on the EB4 visas released every year. Religious ministers are not subject to this limit, but they need a sponsor to be eligible.
Who is a "Minister of Religion"?
Ministers must have received written authorization by a recognized religious denomination to perform their duties. This includes licences, certificates, formal letters or other evidence of valid qualifications. Under certain circumstances, officers of the Salvation Army, practitioners of Christian Science and deacons may be considered as ministers.
- Professionals in a religious occupation
A religious occupation implies the habitual engagement in any activities related to a traditional religious function. This includes liturgical workers, catechists, missionaries, religious broadcasters and workers in religious hospitals.
What is a religious denomination?
To be legally recognized, a religious denomination should have a formal code of doctrine and discipline, as well as religious services and ceremonies. Its members, gathered as religious congregations, should share an ecclesiastical government, a recognized creed and form of worship.
International and U.S.-based interdenominational religious organizations which are tax-exempt may also be treated as religious denominations.
Religious organizations are not required to file the Form I-129 before applicants submit their petition.
However, they must always communicate to the USCIS any change of employment or status or any extension of stay.
How long is the R1 Visa valid?
An R-1 visa is initially valid for 3 years, but it can be extended for 2 more years. After 5 years, you must reside outside the U.S. for at least 1 year before applying for a new permit.
To extend your R1 status, you must file a new Form 1-129 (Petition for Non-immigrant Worker). However, you may be exempted from this obligation if your employment was seasonal or if you only work in the U.S. on a part-time basis while residing abroad.
If you interrupt your functions before your religious visa expires, you must immediately leave the country.
How do I get a religious visa for the U.S.?
Your R1 application process starts when your U.S.-based employer files your Form-129. You must include adequate supporting documentation, such as proof of your religious duties.
When petitioning for your R1 Visa, you will be summoned for an interview. The USCIS will examine your purpose for visiting the U.S. and your role within your religious denominations.
It may also need to inspect the principal place where your worshippers use to congregate.
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Although religious pupils are not qualified for this permit, an R1 Visa holder can pursue training or study incidental to his or her status.
However, you must work for at least 20 hours per week to meet your R1 status requirements and are not allowed to engage in full-time education. The same applies to training unless it is relevant to your vocational role.
If you wish to receive practical training, you should check your H3 Visa eligibility.
If you hold a religious visa, your spouse and your unmarried children under the age of 21 can join you in the U.S.
When filing your petition, your employer can apply for an R-2 status for your family members. The length of their permit is tied to yours. However, they will not be allowed to seek employment in the country.
You will be asked to prove your kinship with your relatives, and that you can support them financially.
If your relatives want to visit you only for a short period, they can apply for a tourist visa by submitting their B2 Visa documentation. This permit could be easier to get, but it will grant them less time in the U.S.
IAS will put you in touch with one of our best immigration lawyers. Your solicitor will review your case and guide you through your application.
Our service includes:
- Review your supporting portfolio;
- Check if you need a certified translation for your documentation;
- Liaise with your U.S.-based employer;
- Help you sponsor fil your Form I-129 to the highest standard.
Contact us today to speak with one of our lawyers. You can call us on +1844 290 6312.