R1 Visa Religious Worker Visa
R1 visas are specifically for foreign workers coming to the US to perform duties of a religious worker. Applicants must prove that:
i) they are a member of a religious denomination for at least 2 years,
ii) who will work at a qualified organization,
iii) as either a minister, a religious professional, or in another religious vocation.
The most typical R1 worker is a “minister,” which is defined as a person authorized by a denomination to perform religious worship. An authorizing official of the denomination in the US must declare the worker’s qualifications; therefore, a lay preacher cannot be authorized.
A “religious professionals” is an individual who will work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation. The key consideration is “professional capacity,” meaning that the religious vocation requires at least a US Bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent for entry into the religious profession. Work experience can be given consideration to make up for a lack of formal education.
Finally, “other religious workers” include “religious occupation workers” which are those who perform a traditional religious function, which may include religious instructors, missionaries, translators, and religious health care workers. Donation solicitors, clerks, or any other jobs which are not inherently religious in nature, are not qualified. Religious occupation workers may be employed by non-profit organizations specifically affiliated with a religious organization. “Religious vocational workers” are also qualified, however, even if such a worker’s job is not inherent in nature. “Religious vocation” means that the person has committed themselves to a calling to religious life based on a specific demonstration of religious commitment. Formally taking vows, for example, would qualify. Monks or nuns serving their church are typical examples of religious vocation workers.
Unlike H-1B visas, there is no quota on the number of R-1 visas which may be issued every year, therefore it can be obtained any time of the year. Premium processing, in which the petition will be processed within 15 calendar days, is also available.
An advantage of the R-1 visa over work visas like H-1B is that it does not necessarily require any specific educational background, unless you are seeking admission as a religious professional. You may also travel in and out of the US or remain in the US continuously until your R-1 visa expires. The R-1 visa may initially be valid up to 30 months, with the possibility of a single 30 month extension. The R-1 visa is a “semi-dual intent” visa. When obtaining the visa from a US consulate or embassy, the R-1 visa holder should not express intent to immigration, but does not necessarily have to maintain a foreign residence. R-1 visas may be extended even if there is a green card petition, and R-1 may be considered a path to a green card where an EB-4 petition for a religious worker is filed.
There is a 5 year limit on R-1 status, unless if the employment is seasonal for no more than a 6 month duration per year. After the 5 year limit is met, the R-1 worker would have to leave for 1 year before readmission. Another limitation is that dependents in the US are able to obtain work authorization.
Contact Our Iranian R1 Visa Immigration Lawyer:
To discuss R1 visa petitions and other alternatives with an experienced California immigration lawyer from the Aria Law Group, feel free to contact us by email or call us at (650) 391-9630.