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About the R Visa

Those who get the R-1 visa are allowed to live and work in the US for the duration of their visa. They can open bank accounts, get a driver’s license, as well as take advantage of studying opportunities. So they can enroll in part or full time study. They can travel in and out of the US, and the time that they are outside the country does not count as part of their total visa time.

There are also some workers who will work part time in the US in religious positions. They are not prohibited from that and can also work in other countries, while travelling to the US for various periods of time to fulfil their work duties. This means that if you get the R-1 visa, you are not required to stay in the US for the whole time that your visa is valid, but you can also go work in other countries.

There is also no cap on the number of R-1 visas that can be issued, so anyone who fulfils the requirements can take advantage of this visa to work in their vocational occupation.

Not all religious workers can work in the US in these organizations. Only ministers and those who are directly tied to the religious work are qualified. Administrative and clerical workers or any support personnel cannot apply for the R-1 visa and must go through applying for other applicable visas.

R visas are short-term work visas for people who’ve been offered jobs as religious workers in the United States. There is no annual limit on the number of people who can receive R visas. 

About the R Visa
Qualification
Requirements
How to Apply
Costs
Timeline
Validity
Family

Timeline

It takes some time to get the R-1 visa approved. After the employer sends in the petition, it takes around 6 months for USCIS to respond, due to the fact that they might have to visit the premises of the organization. If USCIS has visited the organization before and approved them, then premium processing is available and you will get a response on your visa in about 2 weeks.

If you do not have premium processing, after USCIS approves the petition, it might take another 2 to 3 months for the visa to process. So in total, the R-1 visa processing time could be 8 to 9 months without premium processing.

Validity 

The initial period that your R-1 visa will be valid for is 30 months. During those 30 months you can stay and work in the US as a religious worker. Afterwards, you can apply for an extension and if approved, it will give you an additional 30 months in the US. USCIS will not give you any more extensions beyond 60 months. When you have stayed in the US for that maximum period of time, you can either return to your home country or seek permanent residence.

How to apply

To apply for the R-1 visa, you as the applicant and your employer must follow several steps. First of all, the applicant cannot start the application process, but the employer must do that. This can be done by petitioning the US Citizenships and Immigration Services (USCIS) to allow the employee (applicant for R-1 visa) to work in the US

File the petition

This petition will cost $460 which must be paid by the employer or organization. However, in addition to the form, the organization must attach other documents to prove their eligibility and the applicant’s eligibility.

After the organization employing the applicant has submitted the petition, they must wait for it to be processed by USCIS. There may be additional proof requested, and in many cases, USCIS might ask for a visit to the premises to establish the relationship of the organization with the religion. If afterwards USCIS approves the petition, they will send the organization and the applicant Form I-797, Notice of Action. When this document is obtained, the applicant can then begin the visa application process at a US Embassy or Consulate in their place of residence.

File for the Visa

The online form will have questions regarding your personal information, background, and purpose of visit to the US. When you complete the form and submit it, you will get a confirmation page and code which you need to have in your documentation file.

Pay the fees

The visa application fee for the R-1 visa is $190. This fee must be paid in order to continue with your application. Also, other fees might apply depending on the relationship of your country with the US. These fees are called visa issuance fees and may vary from country to country. After you have completed all your payments, you must keep the receipts as proof and attach them to your document file.

Schedule your visa interview

All nonimmigrant visa applicants between 14 and 79 years old must attend a visa interview with an official at the US Embassy. To complete this requirement, you must schedule the interview. Since the US Embassy where you are applying from might have a high workload, it is best to schedule the interview as early as possible to avoid long wait times. When you complete your scheduling, you will get a visa interview confirmation letter, which you need to bring with you to your interview.

Attend the visa interview

Have the documents with you and be on time for your interview. The official will ask you questions about your background, your plans, and your purpose for visiting the US. You must give as much detail as possible to convince them that you will have employment and compensation in the US.

Requirements 

There are various requirements for those who want to get the R-1 visa as religious workers. This is due to the fact that there are various religions in the world and not all of them could be widespread and established in the US. Because of that, there are requirements both for the person applying for the R-1 visa, as well as for the organization that hires the applicant.

The person who is applying for the R-1 visa must fulfill the following conditions:

- Be a member of a religion for the past two years
- Find a job in the non-profit religious organization, or an organization affiliated with the religion
- The applicant must be a minister or a person working directly in the religious occupation
- The applicant must commit to working at least 20 hours per week (part-time)
- The applicant must not work in other positions except in their religious capacity

As for the non-profit organization, it must be either one of the registered organizations in the US.

- The religion must have a non-profit religious organization in the US
- Have its own Internal Revenue Service letter of 501(c)(3)
- Have a group tax exemption
- Be affiliated with a religion which has tax exemptions under 501(c)(3) rules or other IRS codes that does not make it a religious organization by definition

If both the applicant and the organization hiring the person fulfil the criteria, then the application process can begin. However, since there are many religions in the world, the US institutions have seen it fit to define what it means to be in a religion and be eligible to apply for the R-1 visa.

A religion, or religious denomination is formed by a community of people who believe and are governed by rules of an ecclesiastical government. They also have these characteristics:

- Worship similarly
- Have a shared faith amongst their members
- Perform similar rituals, services, and ceremonies
- Have a shared code of discipline and doctrine
- Have organizations that are religious
- Have a shared place of worship

Qualification 

An R-1 visa is available to a person who has been a member of a legitimate religious denomination for at least two years and has a job offer in the U.S. to work for an affiliate of that same religious organization. The work must be for at least 20 hours per week.

R-1 visas may be issued both to members of the clergy and to lay religious workers. The initial stay can be up to 30 months, and the maximum stay is five years.

The criteria for qualifying are, generally, the same as those for religious workers applying for special immigrant green cards. In both cases, "minister" is defined as a person authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious activities. The term covers not only ministers, priests, and rabbis, but also salaried Buddhist monks, commissioned officers of the Salvation Army, practitioners and nurses of the Christian Science Church, and ordained deacons. The applicant will probably be expected to prove formal recognition from the religious organization in question, such as a license, certificate of ordination, or other qualification to conduct religious worship.

The subcategory of "other religious workers" covers people who are in a "religious vocation" or "religious occupation" and are authorized and qualified to perform normal religious duties, but are not considered part of the clergy. This includes anyone performing a traditional religious function, such as liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. It does not cover workers involved in purely nonreligious functions such as janitors, maintenance workers, clerical staff, fundraisers, or even singers. Nor does it cover volunteers.

However, there is one major difference from the green card qualification criteria. It is not necessary that R-1 visa workers were actually employed by the religious organization (either abroad or in the U.S.) before getting the visa. They need only to have been members of that organization for two years.

In most cases, people who qualify for R-1 visas also qualify for green cards as special immigrants and may prefer to apply directly for a green card.

The R visa for religious workers is intended solely for people doing work directly connected to the church or religious organization's core spiritual activities. The job itself further must be religious (not secular) in nature, such as a minister, choir director, or monk. For example, despite the fact that the organization might need an event manager for a fundraiser, or a janitor, such duties are mostly administrative in nature, which would not qualify the worker for an R visa.

The R visa also is not available for volunteers; the person must be doing paid work.

Costs

- Petition - $460
- Visa - $190
- Optional Premium Processing - $2500

Family

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old qualify as your dependents. They may accompany you to the US by applying for an R-2 visa. They can apply at the same time as you or after you have a valid R-1 visa. You must submit a valid marriage certificate and birth certificates to prove your relationship to them.

With an R-2 visa, your dependents can stay with you for as long as your R-1 visa is valid, and get a Green Card if you are approved for one. They may engage in part or full time studies, but are not allowed to work with the R-2 visa.

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R Visa for Religious Workers