Religious workers seeking to temporarily enter the United States to pursue work in their field are likely to enter using the R nonimmigrant visa. To qualify for an R visa, the applicant must be:

• A minister;

• A person working in a professional capacity in a religious occupation or vocation; or

• A person who works for a religious organization or an affiliate in a religious occupation who has been a member of the religious group for at least the two years immediately preceding the application.

The applicant must also be coming to work at least part time (an average of at least 20 hours per week).

An R-1 cannot be self-petitioned. The foreign national must be sponsored for employment by a bona fide nonprofit U.S. religious organization or a bona fide nonprofit organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination. Organizations must fall into the following categories to be eligible to file R-1 Petitions for religious workers:

  • Non-profit religious organization in the United States;
  • Religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
  • Non-profit organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.

On-Site Inspections

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) may conduct a pre-approval inspection. In that case, successfully completing the inspection will be a condition of an approval.

In addition, USCIS may inspect the R-1 work location after adjudicating the form to verify the work hours, compensation, and duties. They may also complete a post-adjudication inspection in cases of suspected fraud or where the petitioning entity has undergone substantial changes since its last filing.

Dual Intent

As most of other nonimmigrant status, nonimmigrant religious workers must maintain the intent to depart the United States when their nonimmigrant stay expires. At the same time, USCIS may not deny a nonimmigrant petition, application for initial admission, change of status, or extension of stay in R classification solely on the basis of a filed or an approved permanent labor certification application or immigrant visa petition.

Period of Admission and Extensions of Status

The maximum stay in R-1 status is 5 years. A person can obtain R-1 status again after remaining outside of the United States for one year before making another application. R-1 religious workers can be initially admitted for a period up to 30 months, and an extension of up to an additional 30 months may be issued by USCIS. If a person’s employment in the United States is seasonal or intermittent or for an aggregate of six months or less per year, the five-year limit does not apply. It also doesn’t apply to people who reside abroad and regularly commute to the United States to engage in part-time employment.

Family of R-1 Visa Holders

An R-1 religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. R-2 nonimmigrant status is granted for the same period of time and subject to the same time limits as the R-1, regardless of the time the spouse and children may have spent in the United States in R-2 status. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to work based on this visa classification. Both spouses and children in R-2 status may attend school.

Please do not hesitate to contact our experienced immigration attorneys for any R-1 questions. Schedule A Consultation.

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