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R-1 Visa

As a religious worker, you may have heard about the R-1 visa as a way to live and work temporarily in the United States. Along with the EB-4 visa, the R-1 visa is the best path to working in the US for many people doing religious work.

If you are considering applying for an R-1 visa, it makes sense to hire an immigration attorney to help you. An immigration lawyer can make sure you qualify for the R-1 visa and that your paperwork is completed properly. This gives you the best chance for success with your application.

Call the Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office P.C. today for assistance with your R-1 visa as a religious worker. You can reach us at 408-292-7995 or use our convenient online form to set up a consultation right away.

What Is an R-1 Visa?

An R-1 visa is a special category for religious workers who wish to live and work in the United States to perform religious duties with a qualified organization. You must have a job offer from a legitimate religious denomination to qualify for an R-1 visa.

What Is the R-1 Visa Application Process?

The organization where the applicant intends to work must petition for their visa. The applicant may be outside the US or already present in the US when the petition is submitted.

If you are already in the US, you must request to “change status.” If you are applying from outside the US, once your petition has been approved, you will need to go to the US Consulate and get your R-1 visa stamp.

The initial length of the R-1 visa is 30 months. Extensions of 30 months can be added up to a maximum stay of five years.

If you are granted an R-1 visa, your spouse or dependent children can follow to join you in the US under an R-2 visa.

While holding an R-1 visa, you may apply via form I-360 for permanent resident status (AKA a green card) using the adjustment of status process. A spouse or dependent children with you on R-2 visas may also apply for their green cards.

Who Qualifies for an R-1 Visa?

To qualify for an R-1 visa, you must meet certain criteria:

  • Be a member of a religious denomination that has a nonprofit organization status in the US, exempting them from taxation
  • Have been a member of this religious denomination for at least two years prior to your application
  • Come to the US to work at least 20 hours per week, although there is no minimum salary required, and, in some cases, no paid salary but rather just accommodations (such as for missionaries) qualifies an applicant for R-1 status
  • Come to the US only to work in a religious vocation or occupation, although related study is allowed as long as work is the primary reason for the visa

What Is Considered a Nonprofit Religious Organization or Affiliated Organization?

Qualifying religious organizations must have tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) status with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Affiliated organizations must also maintain tax-exempt status.

What Is the Definition of a Religious Denomination?

To qualify as a religious denomination, a group must have a community of believers and an ecclesiastical government. It must also have:

  • A shared creed or faith statement
  • A common form of worship
  • A formal code of doctrine and discipline followed by members
  • Religious ceremonies and services in common
  • Established places of religious worship or congregations

In many cases, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will make site visits to ensure the religious organization associated with an R-1 visa holder is bona fide.

Who Is Considered a Minister of Religion?

People considered religious ministers for the purposes of an R-1 visa have been trained and authorized by their denomination to conduct religious worship and execute other related duties. Lay preachers are not included in this category.

What Are Examples of a Religious Vocation?

A vocation (versus an occupation, below) implies a lifetime commitment to a religious way of life, a dedication to the practices and work of the denomination. Examples include monks, nuns, and religious brothers and sisters.

What Is a Religious Occupation?

A religious occupation is a job within a religious denomination that involves carrying out duties of the religion according to its creed. It must be recognized as a religious occupation within the denomination. It does not necessarily mean the practitioner has committed to this job for life, although there can also be overlap with a religious vocation.

Support positions, such as janitors and clerical employees, do not qualify for religious occupations, but jobs such as cantors or catechists usually meet the requirement.

Can an Immigration Attorney Help with an R-1 Visa Application?

As you can probably imagine from reading the information above, the qualifications for an R-1 visa can be quite complex, nuanced and open to the interpretation of US immigration authorities. Therefore, it’s essential to collaborate with an experienced immigration attorney when applying for an visa to increase your chances of a positive outcome.

The team from the Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office P.C. can work with you from the start of the R-1 visa application process to ensure every part of your application is completed properly, once we help you determine if you’re indeed eligible for an R-1 visa. We assist with any requisite documentation and can also help with family members applying for R-2 visas.

Our legal practice can also assist you when it’s time to renew your R-1 visa to extend your time in the US. If you decide to apply for permanent resident status in the US, we can help with that as well. We have an excellent track record of helping applicants get the visas they need to carry out their life’s work.

Call our offices today at 408-292-7995 to learn more about R-1 visas. Or simply reach out online and schedule a consultation at your convenience. The sooner you get your paperwork started, the sooner you will have a decision about your visa status.