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R-1 Visa Specifics

Nonimmigrant (Temporary Status)
Religious Worker: R-1

A religious worker seeking to enter the U.S. to pursue work in his or her field may qualify for an R-1 visa if the religious worker has been a member of a religious denomination, which has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S., for at least the two years immediately preceding the application. The religious worker must be coming to the U.S. to work in one of the following capacities: (1) as a minister of the denomination; (2) as a professional for the bona fide nonprofit religious organization; or (3) in a religious vocation or occupation for the bona fide religious organization or a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination.

An individual can hold R-1 status for a maximum of five years. The initial admission of an individual in R-1 status cannot exceed thirty months. However, towards the end of the first thirty-month period, a thirty-month extension can be requested. After five years in R-1 status, an must depart the U.S. and remain outside the U.S. for at least one year in order to be eligible for another five years of R-1 status.


The Petition

The process for obtaining an R-1 visa occurs in two stages. The first stage is known as the petition, which requires the submission of a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, together with appropriate supporting documentation, to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), California Service Center. Appropriate supporting documentation includes:

  1. Evidence that the sponsoring religious organization is Section 501(c)(3) tax exempt.
  2. Evidence that the intended religious worker has been a member of the religious denomination for at least the preceding two years. This is best accomplished by a letter from the religious leader where the intended religious worker has been worshipping. The letter should state the length of membership and in what ways, if any, the R-1 applicant has participated in that place of worship.
  3. Letter from the intended U.S. employer confirming that it belongs to the same denomination of which the R-1 applicant is a member, the name and location of the organization in the U.S. where the R-1 applicant will work, a complete description of the job including the duties to be performed, an explanation of how the job fits the criteria of one of the three qualifying employment categories listed above, the intended religious worker’s qualifications and the salary to be paid.

Due to the prevalence of fraud within the religious worker category, it is likely that a site visit by the USCIS’ Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (“FDNS”) will occur sometime after the R-1 petition has been filed. The FDNS will likely want to see employment and membership records and will want to verify the identity of the person who signed the Form I-129 and letter of support.

The Visa Application

If the R-1 applicant is outside the U.S., the applicant will need to apply for an R-1 visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate before going to the U.S. to commence employment with the R-1 petitioner. The applicant will need:

  1. A DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which must be completed and submitted online. A passport-style photograph must also be scanned and uploaded when completing the DS-160.
  2. Evidence that the Machine-Readable Visa Fee of $190 has been paid.
  3. Payment of the visa issuance fee, where required. Please contact Ferman Law which can advise as to which nationalities must pay a visa issuance fee and the fee amount.
  4. The I-797 Approval Notice, copy “A “or “B” for the R-1 petition. The original is preferred, and certain consular posts will only accept the original Approval Notice.
  5. A valid passport. There should be at least six months of unexpired validity and at least one blank page to insert the machine-readable visa.

If the R-1 applicant was in the U.S. at the time of filing the R-1 petition and was granted either a change of status or an extension of status, the R-1 applicant will need to obtain an R-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate when he or she next travels outside the U.S.

How We Can Help You:

At Ferman Law, we review with our clients the feasibility of the petition and the documentation needed. We will prepare the petition for you and file it with the USCIS. After the petition is approved, we will prepare visa applications for you and your dependents. We will schedule your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy and prepare you for the interview.