R-VISA (RELIGIOUS WORKER VISA)
The R nonimmigrant employment visa category reserved for those individuals who wish to come to the United States solely as a religious minister or to perform a religious vocation or occupation, in either a professional or nonprofessional capacity, for a period not to exceed five (5) years.
The basic requirements must be met to take advantage of this visa category:
- You must be 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 application for admission;
- You must be coming to the United States to work at least in a part time position (average of at least 20 hrs./week);
- You must be coming to, or remaining in, the United States at the request of the religious organization to work for the religious organization.
The U.S. based religious organization must be in existence and offer a bona-fide position to the religious worker, and it must be able to pay the offered compensation.
An authorized official of the prospective employer of an R-1 foreigner must also complete, sign and date an attestation of its denomination and status and submit it along with the petition (see list of documents).
EMPLOYEE REQUIREMENTS (FOREIGNER)
The Foreigner must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years and the person must otherwise be qualified for the position offered. If the foreigner is a religious minister, the person must submit a copy of the certificate of ordination, or similar documents reflecting acceptance of the foreigner’s qualifications as a minister in the religious denomination; and,
Documents reflecting acceptance of the foreigner’s qualifications as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the foreigner has completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination; including transcripts, curriculum, and documentation that establishes that the theological education is accredited by the denomination.
An R-1 spouse and minor children (under the age of 21) are admitted as R-2, for the same length of stay and subject to the same limits as the principal R-1. The R-2 can be applied for in the same petition as the primary visa holder.
The R-1 visa status is usually granted for an initial period of three (3) years, with extensions granted in periods of two (2) years. An foreigner who has spent five (5) years in the United States in R-1 status may not be readmitted to or receive an extension of stay in the United States under the R visa classification, unless the foreigner has resided abroad and has been physically present outside the United States for the immediate prior year. This limitation does not apply to R-1 foreigners who did not reside continually in the United States and whose employment in the United States was seasonal or intermittent, or was for an aggregate of six (6) months or less per year. In addition, the limitations shall not apply to foreigners who reside abroad and regularly commute to the United States to engage in part-time employment.
To qualify for this exception, the religious organization and the foreigner must provide clear and convincing proof that the foreigner qualifies for such an exception. Such proof shall consist of evidence such as arrival and departure records, transcripts of processed income tax returns, and records of employment abroad.
Compensation may include salaried or non-salaried compensation. In either case, evidence must state how the foreigner will be compensated, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation, or whether the foreigner intends to be self-supporting.
If the foreigner will be self-supporting, the religious organization must submit documentation establishing that the position the foreigner will hold is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination.