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 for foreign nationals who wish to enter the U.S. to work as religious workers. To be eligible, the applicant must meet the following requirements:
- Intend to work solely as a religious worker in the United States
- Have been a member of the religious organization for at least two years before applying for a R1 visa
- Have received an offer from a non-profit religious organization located in the U.S
The visa is for ministers and those who are directly involved in religious work. Support staff such as admin workers are not eligible for a R1 visa and should consider applying via other Work Visa routes.
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 directly to a Green Card and permanent residency.
However, there are a number of other routes that may be open to a R1 Visa holder such as through a family-based petition or via the employment-based immigration process.
In particular, holders may apply for an EB4 visa. This is a permanent work permit open to particular categories of applicants, such as those with vocational occupations.
There is a 5,000 cap on the EB4 visas released every year. However, religious ministers are not subject to this limit, but they must have a valid sponsor to be eligible.
Qualifying as a Religious Worker
Applicants must qualify as a religious worker for the purposes of the R1 visa application. There are several definitions of religious worker but US Immigration laws regard it as an individual who is coming to the United States to work in a religious capacity for a religious organization. They can hold positions such as:
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. The R1 visa requirements also outline the following criteria for a religious organization that is planning to employ a R1 visa holder:
- Have non-profit status – the organization must be tax-exempt under the Internal Revenue Code as a religious organization or be affiliated with a religious denomination that is tax-exempt
- Be a legitimate religious organization which is engaged in religious activities. This includes organizations that are focused on worship, religious study or other religious practices.
- Affiliation with a religious denomination that is a non-profit religious organization in the United States. The individual seeking the R1 visa must have been a member of this denomination for at least two years prior to applying for a R1 visa
Not all religious organizations may meet these requirements and therefore will not be able to employ a R1 visa holder. For example, organizations that are largely focused on charitable or social welfare activities, rather than religious activities, may not meet the restrictions.
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 for?
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 cease your religious work before your R1 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 and ask questions about the nature of the work you will carry out while in the US.
Last modified on August 29th, 2023 at 7:35 am
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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.
No, you cannot change employers on an R1 visa. If you wish to work for a different religious organization, you will need to apply for a new R1 visa. You will be required to pay the fee again.
You can stay in the United States for up to 30 months on an R1 visa. It is possible to apply for a one-time extension for an additional 30 months.
IAS will put you in touch with one of our best immigration lawyers. Your solicitor will review your case and guide you through your R1 visa 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.