R Visas – Religious Workers Visas
There are over 35 Non-immigrant visa categories available to Foreign Nationals (FNs) who intend to come to the United States temporarily. This article will discuss one of the not-too-prominent categories known as the R-1 Visa, the Religious Workers visa. Many religious organizations have underutilized this visa category which is readily available to them as long as the requirements are met.
R-1 visa is an employment-based classification visa for a FN seeking employment in United States as a minister or in a religious vocation or religious occupation for at least 20 hours per week. It is for those seeking religious workers employment in a non-profit religious organization in the United States or a religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption or a non-profit religious organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.
The beneficiary of a R-1 visa must be a religious worker whose life is dedicated to religious practices and functions and not just a regular church member of a religion. The foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
The beneficiary’s membership has to be of the same type as the religious denomination of the U.S. religious organization where the beneficiary will work. Denominational membership for this purpose is defined as having a shared faith and worship practice common to that denomination and not just a formal affiliation of such.
Ministers are defined as persons who are authorized by and are fully trained according to the denomination’s standards to conduct religious worship and other duties usually performed by the clergy of that religious denomination. There are no general requirements expected in terms of training and qualifications for religious workers but a religious worker may pursue study or training incidental to his R-1 status. The religious denominations must be able to affirm that the beneficiary is qualified to perform the proposed duties of the religious occupation to be performed in the U.S.
Religious occupations are defined as occupations whose duties primarily relate to a traditional religious function. It has to be recognized as a religious occupation within that particular denomination and be principally related to and involves carrying out the religious doctrines and beliefs of the denomination.
Religious duties which primarily involve administrative or support positions such as clerical employees, and maintenance duties are not recognized as religious occupations however some administrative duties that are incidental to religious functions are recognized.
The U.S. Employer/Religious Organization must file a petition on behalf of the FN seeking to enter the U.S. as a nonimmigrant minister or a religious worker in a religious vocation at the appropriate Immigration Office within the United States. R-1 visas will not be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval from the relevant office within the US. Upon approval of the petition, the Consulate then determines whether the FN is eligible to receive the R-1 nonimmigrant visa.
The religious organization must submit all documentation showing the bona fides of the religious organization particularly evidence of their Tax Exemption status. The petitioner/employer must submit an Employer Attestation, evidence of Religious Denomination Certification, verifiable evidence of how it plans to compensate the beneficiary whether salaried or non-salaried compensation, evidence of work for at least 20 hours per week and proof that the worker intends to leave the U.S. when the R-1 status ends.
A R-1 beneficiary might be self-supporting. If the religious worker will be self-supporting he has to provide documents that show that he will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by that denomination. It has to be shown that the religious organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work in which compensated or uncompensated FN workers previously held R-1 status. Proof that the organization provides formal training for missionaries and that participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination is needed. The R-1 beneficiary will provide proof that the religious organization maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad and will provide evidence of acceptance into the missionary program. There must also be proof that the beneficiary is maintaining verifiable sources of support such as from bank records and other documentation showing sources of self-support.
R-1 visa holders can file derivative visas for their dependent spouses and children who will be admitted as R-2s and the dependent’s duration of stay is the same as the principal worker. R-2 dependents may not work in U.S. but may attend school without changing status.
The R-1 visa can be granted for up to 30 months and can be extended for up to another 30 months with a maximum of 5 years. R-1 visa holders are not barred from having dual intent and may file an immigrant petition without impacting the R-1 status.
Above al,l If you plan to live and work in the U.S. whether temporarily or permanently, consulting with an experienced Immigration Attorney is the best foundation.
To be continued…
Author: Ms. Adefoyeke Adedeji Esq
Law Office of A. Adefoyeke Adedeji LLC