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U.S. Immigration Law

R-1 Visas and Green Cards for Religious Workers

 R-1 Temporary Visa for Religious WorkersWhat is an R-1 Temporary Visa for Religious Workers?

An R-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa available to U.S. religious denominations to sponsor foreign religious workers to work for their religious organizations in the United States as: a minister; in a professional capacity; or in a religious vocation or occupation.

Criteria for the R-1 Visa:

To be eligible for this category, the foreign individual must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be sponsored by a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States (normally evidenced by 501(c)(3) certification);
  2. Must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years prior to submission of the petition;
  3. Must be entering the United States to work:
    1. As a minister or priest of the religious denomination. As a priest or minister, must be authorized by the denomination to conduct religious worship and to perform other duties typical of clergy of that religion;
    2. In a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization. A U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent is required for a professional occupation or vocation; OR
    3. In a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization or its nonprofit affiliate. A religious vocation is defined as a calling to religious life evidenced by the demonstration of commitment practiced in the denomination, such as the taking of vows. A religious occupation is defined as an activity which relates to a traditional religious function. Examples of religious occupations include (but are not limited to) cantors, missionaries, and religious instructors.

For how long is the R-1 Visa valid?

An R-1 visa is valid for an initial time period of 30 months and may be extended for an additional 30 months.

Who may accompany a R-1 Visa holder?

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may receive R-2 visa status in order to accompany the R-1 visa holder to the U.S. R-2 visa status does not confer authorization for employment in the U.S.

How may I obtain a R-1 Visa?

The U.S. religious organization must file the R-1 petition is at the appropriate U.S.C.I.S. Service Center. If the foreign individual is outside of the United States, he/she must apply for the R-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.

EB-4 Special Immigrant Visas – Green Cards – for Religious Workers

 The employment based fourth preference category is the means for U.S. religious denominations to sponsor religious workers for permanent residence, or green cards. This category does not require a labor certification as a pre-requisite for filing the immigrant visa petition.

Criteria for EB-4 Religious Worker Petitions

To be eligible for this category, the foreign individual must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be sponsored by a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States (normally evidence by 501(c)(3) certification);
  2. Must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years prior to submission of the petition;
  3. Must be entering the United States to work:
    1. As a minister or priest of the religious denomination. To be recognized as a minister or priest, must be authorized by the denomination to conduct religious worship and to perform other duties typical of clergy of that religion;
    2. In a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization. Professional capacity means that a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent is required for the occupation or vocation; OR
    3. In a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization or its nonprofit affiliate. A religious vocation is defined as a calling to religious life evidenced by the demonstration of commitment practiced in the denomination, such as the taking of vows. A religious occupation is defined as an activity which relates to a traditional religious function. Examples of religious occupations include (but are not limited to) cantors, missionaries, and religious instructors.
  4. The foreign individual must have been performing this religious work for the past two years, either abroad or in the United States.

The EB-4 petition is filed at the appropriate U.S.C.I.S. Service Center. The foreign individual may apply for adjustment of status only after the EB-4 petition has been approved and there is a visa number available. Alternatively, after approval the individual may chose to undergo consular processing of his or her immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.

The EB-4 is subject to an annual numeric limitation. The filing date of the immigrant visa petition establishes the priority date for the application.

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