Getting a visa to the U.S., be it for travel or work or to reside in the U.S. temporarily, has never been easy. Thankfully there are certain special categories of visas, like the religious visa, that make it easier for some sections of people to visit the country for a short period.
The religious visa, also known as the R-1 visa, allows religious workers to visit and work in the United States for a short time. The religious visa is a provision of the law under the Immigration and Nationality Act at I.N.A. § 101(a)(15)(R).
But how do you know if you qualify for the R-1 visa? What makes a religious worker eligible for the R-1 visa? These are certain recurrent questions that we will be answering in this article.
What is the R-1 visa of the United States of America?
The R-1 visa is a non-immigrant, temporary work visa for foreign nationals looking to work in the U.S. as religious workers.
Under the U.S. immigration law, there are also two categories of immigrant religious worker visas, that are different from the non-immigrant work visa. These two categories are –
- Ministers of Religion
- Certain Religious Workers
These categories fall under the Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants.
There are different eligibility and qualification criteria for immigrant and non-immigrant religious visas. In this article, we will be focusing primarily on the temporary religious work visa.
Eligibility for the temporary religious visa
The temporary religious worker visa is for people who want to enter the U.S. to work in religious capacities temporarily. To be considered as a temporary religious worker, you must fulfill the following conditions –
- Be a member of the same religious denomination as the religious organization you want to work for in the United States. You have to have been a member for at least 2 years before a petition is filed on your behalf by the organization.
- Be visiting the U.S. to work as a minister, or work in a religious vocation or occupation.
- Be employed by a religious non-profit organization, or a tax-exempt organization affiliated with the religious denomination, in the U.S.
- Be working at least part-time for a minimum of 20 hours a week.
What is the petition for a non-immigrant worker visa?
A Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) must be filed on your behalf by the prospective employer before you can apply for a non-immigrant religious visa. The petition has to be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
On approval or denial, the USCIS will send a Notice of Action to the organization. During the visa interview process, your petition approval will be verified through the Department of State’s Petition Information Management Service (PIMS). You must bring your petition approval acknowledgment/ receipt with you at the time of the interview.
The petition must be filed not earlier than 6 months before the proposed employment is likely to begin. It is important to note, though, that a petition approval does not necessarily mean the issuance of the religious worker visa. Your eligibility will still be ascertained before the visa is approved.
Organizations that are eligible to file a petition on your behalf for a temporary religious worker visa must be any of the following –
- A non-profit religious organization in the United States
- A religious organization authorized to use tax exemption
- A non-profit affiliated with a religious subgroup in the U.S.
How to apply for a temporary religious worker visa?
The application process for an R-1 visa has three steps – filing the petition, applying for the visa, and appearing for the visa interview.
We have already discussed the first step, which is filing the petition. this step has to be completed by your prospective employer.
After the petition is approved, the next step is applying for a religious visa.
Non-immigrant religious visa application
Like all other non-immigrant visas, you have to fill out the Form DS-160: Non-Immigrant Visa Application for your religious visa as well. The application form has a list of questions about your background, personal information, the purpose of your visit, and so on.
You have to submit your application along with the necessary application fee. The application fee is currently $190 and the issuance fee may vary depending on where you are applying from.
After your application is reviewed you will be called for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Visa interview at Embassy or Consulate
All foreign nationals between the ages of 14 and 79, applying for a visa, have to appear for the interview. For applicants below 14 years and above 79 years of age, an interview is generally not required.
You must attend the interview with all your relevant documents and copies of documents that may be needed.
What are the key features of the R-1 visa?
- The R-1 visa is initially granted for up to 30 months, but it can be extended up to a total of 5 years.
- Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for the R-2 visa to accompany you and live with you in the United States.
- Family members entering on R-2 visas can study in the U.S. during their stay but cannot seek employment.
- Religious workers eligible for an R-1 visa do not include other professions or vocations at a religious organization. This includes administrative employees, janitors, maintenance workers, students, clerical employees, or anyone not working in a religious vocation or occupation.
- You are eligible to apply for permanent residency after 2 years of living in the U.S. as an R-1 visa holder.
Hire a San Jose Immigration Attorney to get your R-1 visa approved faster
The R-1 visa does give you some special privileges as a religious worker in the United States, but the application process is still quite lengthy and tedious. An experienced Immigration Attorney can help you navigate your way through the application process and receive your R-1 visa faster.
We, at Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office, P.C., have helped our clients across the globe attain temporary and permanent residency in the U.S. for work, education, and more. Overcoming immigration obstacles and accomplishing your goals is easier with us by your side,
Get in touch with our experienced and skilled Immigration Attorneys in San Jose to know more.