R Visas - Working for Religious Organizations
An R visa is a non-immigrant visa available to certain employees of religious organizations. An applicant for an R visa must have been a member of his or her sponsoring religious denomination for at least two years immediately preceding the the time of the visa application. Eligible employment includes a minister or an employee that performs a professional or nonprofessional religious occupation or vocation. A religious occupation includes those performing a traditional religious function involving carrying out religious beliefs, but not solely administrative or support positions. Further, a religious occupation does not include coming to the United States solely to study or train. Religious vocations includes those committed to the religion as nuns, brothers, and monks.
The R visa application process begins with a religious employer filing an I-129 petition on behalf of the employee. The employer must show USCIS proof of tax-exempt status, or other documentation that the religious organization is legitimate. Also included with the application must be proof that the applicant qualifies as either a minister or person coming to the United States to perform a religious vocation or occupation. After approval, an R-1 visa holder may be admitted to the United States for 30 months for an initial period, and may then apply for extensions up to a 5-year maximum period. An R-1 visa holder must only work for the petitioning religious organization.
Our firm's role in the R visa process includes consultation and possible representation of both the petitioning religious organization and the religious worker. We assist employers with the petition and any requests for evidence, or on-site inspection by Department of Homeland Security officials. We also consult with the potential R-1 visa holder regarding the qualifications for admission, and later regarding maintaining non-immigrant status.
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