R Visas for Religious Workers

The religious worker non immigrant classification is for individuals who seek to enter the United States to work as a religious worker. To qualify as a religious worker, an individual must have been a member of a religious denomination for at least two years and must have a job offer in the U.S. from an affiliate of that same religious denomination. The evidentiary requirement to qualify as a special immigrant religious worker for Lawful Permanent Resident card is almost the same as an R-1 Religious Worker. To qualify for an R-1 temporary Religious Worker visa, it is not mandatory for that religious worker to have been employed with the religious organization before getting the visa. He/she is only required to be a member of that religious denomination for two years. However, to qualify as a special immigrant religious worker for a green card, he/she must be employed with the religious organization for two years at the time of filing the petition with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. In order to establish that petition for a religious worker meets the criteria of an R-1 non-immigrant visa, both the religious organization and religious worker will be required to provide the following evidence:

Necessary Key Points for R-1 Religious Worker Visa

  • Religious organization must be tax exempt under section 501(c) (3) of Internal Revenue Service Code
  • Evidence of how the religious organization intends to compensate the religious worker
  • Evidence that the religious worker has been a member of a religious denomination for at least two years
  • If the religious worker is a minister or priest, evidence of the worker’s certificate of ordinance or graduation certificate or comparable documents
  • Religious worker is authorized to work in the United States for the sponsoring religious organization only. If the worker wants to change their employer he/she must file a new petition with the USCIS.

Family Members

An R-1 visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children, who are under twenty-one (21) years of age, are eligible for the R-2 visa. They are not authorized to work in the U.S.

Validity Period

An R-1 religious worker and their family members may be admitted in the U.S. for a period up to five years. Initial admissions may be for a maximum of thirty months, with an extension of up to thirty additional months.

Special Immigrant Religious Petition (Form I-360) for Lawful Permanent Resident

Under the fourth preference category of employment-based green cards, qualifying religious organizations can file a special immigrant petition (I-360) with the USCIS on behalf of the religious worker they want to employ in the United States. The petition must include the following evidence:

  • Evidence of petitioning religious organization’s tax exempt status
  • Evidence that the foreign religious worker has been employed full-time for the same religious denomination for the two years preceding filing of I-360 petition.
  • Evidence that the petitioning religious organization has the ability to pay the proffered wages to the foreign religious worker.
  • If the foreign religious worker is to work as a minister, evidence that the religious worker is authorized to perform the ministerial duties.
  • If the foreign religious worker is to work in a religious vocation or occupation, evidence that the religious worker is qualified for that traditional work within the same religious denomination.

An R-1 religious worker’s spouse and children under 21 years of age may apply for green cards as derivative beneficiary under EB-4 category.

At The Ahluwalia Firm, Our Emphasis is on:

  • Providing zealous representation before the USCIS
  • Providing careful review of your personal circumstance
  • Providing careful coordination of all correspondence with the government agencies
  • Ensuring a service-delivery model that meets and exceeds your satisfaction

For additional information about our ability to help, prepare and file all the necessary documents required to apply for religious worker visa, contact us for reliable advice.


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