The R1 visa allows people to come to the U.S. to develop their religious vocation, religious occupation, or ministry. These categories come with specific criteria that must be fulfilled. For example, those pursuing a religious vocation may be nuns, monks, or others undertaking a lifetime vow. Those seeking religious occupations must be those performing religious duties that deal with traditional religious functions and relate to the faith on a fundamental level.
Finally, those entering as a minister must be trained members of the clergy, work as a minister, and perform ministerial duties. The religious denomination and organization must be bona fide groups. Direct U.S. Immigration can help you determine whether your organization counts toward this requirement.
R1 Visa Benefits
1. Can bring immediate family members
Under the R1 visa, a person can bring their spouse and children under R-2 status. They are not allowed to work in the United States. The reason for them coming to the United States must be to accompany the R1 holder.
2. Can Live in the United States
Under R1 visa status, a person can extend their stay in the United States for up to 5 years.
3. Can Work in a Religious Organization as a Non-professional
There is no degree requirement for those pursuing religious occupations. Their job must include traditional religious functions.
4. Dual Intent Visa
The R1 visa is a dual intent visa that allows applicants to pursue green card status if they choose.
What are the requirements for the R-1 visa?
There are various requirements for those who want to get the R-1 visa as religious workers. This is because there are various religions in the world but not all of them could be widespread and established in the US. Because of that, there are requirements both for the person applying for the R-1 visa and for the organization that hires the applicant.
The person who is applying for the R-1 visa must fulfill the following conditions:
⦁ Be a member of religion for the past two years
⦁ The religion must have a non-profit organization in the US
⦁ Find a job in a non-profit religious organization or an organization affiliated with the religion
⦁ The applicant must be a minister or a person working directly in the religious occupation
⦁ The applicant must commit to working at least 20 hours per week (part-time)
⦁ The applicant must not work in other positions except in their religious capacity
As for the non-profit organization, it must be either one of the registered organizations in the US.
⦁ A non-profit religious organization with its own Internal Revenue Service letter of 501(c)(3)
⦁ A non-profit religious organization with a group tax exemption
⦁ A non-profit organization affiliated with a religion that has tax exemptions under 501(c)(3) rules or other IRS codes that do not make it a religious organization by definition
The application process can begin if the organization hires the person to fulfill the criteria. However, since there are many religions in the world, the US institutions have seen it fit to define what it means to be in religious practice and be eligible to apply for the R-1 visa.
A religion or religious denomination is formed by a community of people who believe and are governed by the rules of an ecclesiastical government. They also have these characteristics:
⦁ Worship similarly
⦁ Have a shared faith amongst their members
⦁ Perform similar rituals, services, and ceremonies
⦁ Have a shared code of discipline and doctrine
⦁ Have religious organizations
⦁ Have a shared place of worship
R1 Visa Process
The R1 Visa process begins with the U.S. employer filing Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker. To receive an R1 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate, there needs to be an I-129 approval given by USCIS.
The following evidence may need to be included with your petition:
⦁ A letter of support
⦁ Job description and duty chart with the percentage of time for certain duties breakdown
⦁ A current and valid determination letter from the IRS showing that the organization is tax-exempt
⦁ Proof of compensation.
⦁ Self-support will only be considered for certain non-immigrant missionaries.
⦁ Evidence of funding for compensation. The organization needs to demonstrate how the position will be compensated through records, budgets, etc.
⦁ Documentation that confirms the religious nature and purpose of the organization. Such evidence can include books, brochures, flyers, and other religious literature.
If the religious worker is self-supporting, the following evidence may need to be provided:
⦁ Proof that the position is part of an established, international missionary program sponsored by the denomination
⦁ Past R1 recipients
⦁ Proof that missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated
⦁ Proof of formal training for missionaries
⦁ Proof that such missionary work is part of religious development in this denomination
⦁ Description of duties and responsibilities
⦁ Religious worker’s bank records and other financial documents that demonstrate sources of support
The consulate or embassy will determine whether the beneficiary is eligible to receive the R1 visa. However, Customs and Border Patrol will still have ultimate authority regarding allowing beneficiaries into the country.
R1 Duration of Stay
R1 holders can apply for an extension of status or readmission under R1 status for up to 30 months as long as their stay is not more than 5 years maximum. After the extension is granted, the R-2 dependents must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status.
To be eligible to return to the U.S. after spending the full 5 years inside the U.S., the R1 worker must spend a total of one year outside the U.S.
Exceptions apply to R1 holders who do not live inside the United States continually, lived abroad, and commuted to the United States, or whose work was seasonal, intermittent, or for less than six months per year. Proof needs to be presented of these conditions. Such evidence can be arrival-departure records, records of employment abroad, and tax returns.
R1 Adjustment of Status
Because the R1 visa is a dual intent visa, an R1 holder can pursue many visa options, including immigrant visa options.
They can pursue non-immigrant visa options like the H-1B, F-1, and employment-based immigrant categories such as EB-2 and EB-3. Therefore, it is possible to change the classification without the issue of intent.
The R1 visa is excellent for those seeking to perform religious vocations or occupations. Religious workers who may not qualify for employment under other visa categories may find that the R1 is suitable for them.
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