R visas are a type of short-term work visas available to people who have been offered jobs as religious workers in the United States. (This comes from the federal Immigration and Nationality Act at I.N.A. § 101(a)(15)(R),8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(R) and the Code of Federal Regulations at8 C.F.R. § 214.2(r).). There is no annual limit on the number of people who can receive R-1 visas.
Major Features of the R-1 Visa
A few advantages and disadvantages of the R-1 visa include:
- The religious worker can work lawfully in the U.S. for the R-1 sponsor (the employer that submits an R-1 visa petition with the U.S. immigration authorities). If and when the worker wants to change jobs, he or she must apply for a new visa. It is advisable to get the assistance of an immigration attorney when seeking another visa classification.
- The first R-1 visa requires a site visit which can take some time, but after the first R-1 visa, an employer applies for the rest and it is issued reasonably quickly.
- R-1 visas can be granted initially for up to 30 months, with extensions up to a maximum of five years total. Time spent overseas does not count toward the maximum U.S. stay (according to a USCIS policy announced in March of 2012), granted the R-1 worker can prove the length of the absence.
- As long as the R-1 visa stamp and status is not expired the beneficiary may travel in and out of the U.S or stay continuously.
- Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age will be granted R-2 visas to accompany the main visa holder, but must not accept any type of employment in the U.S.
Eligibility Requirements for an R-1 Visa
An R-1 visa is accessible to a foreign national who has been a member of a lawful religious denomination for a minimum of at least two years and has a job offer in the U.S. to work for an affiliation of that same religious organization. R-1 visa types are issued to both members of the clergy and lay religious workers. The initial stay can be up to 30 months and the maximum stay is five years.
The criteria for eligibility are similar to those for religious workers seeking special immigrant green cards (lawful permanent residence). For example, in both cases, a minister is defined as a person authorized by a recognized religious denomination to organize activities. The term also covers:
- Salaried Buddhist monks
- Commissioned officers of the Salvation Army
- Practitioners and nurses of the Christian Science Church
- Ordained deacons.
The applicant will be expected to demonstrate formal recognition from the religious organization in question, such as a:
- Certificate of ordination or
- Other qualifications to conduct religious worship.
The subcategory of other religious workers covers applicants who are in religious vocation or religious occupation and are authorized to perform normal religious duties, but are not considered part of the clergy. This involves anyone engaged in religious function such as:
- Liturgical workers
- Religious instructors
- Religious counselors
- Workers in religious hospitals or religious healthcare facilities
- Religious translators or
- Religious broadcasters
Workers who are involved in nonreligious functions are not covered by the R-1 visa and they are:
- Maintenance workers
- Clerical staff
An Immigration Attorney Help With the Application Process
Get help directly from an immigration lawyer for a complete assessment of your eligibility for an R-1 Religious Worker’s visa. The Gambacorta Law Office and team will provide advice and the aid you need for the application process. Call 847 908 4913 to schedule a consultation.