The R1 Visa for Religious Workers
Coming to the United States for Religious Purposes
Many individuals from around the world wish to work in the United States in a manner that is consistent with their faith. Whether it is working as a minister in a church, a nurse in a religious medical clinic, or as a translator of scripture, the R-1 Visa for Religious Workers allows faith-based workers to work in the United States.
The United States government understands that religious institutions have specific needs that cannot be met through the ordinary visa process. In order to address this need, they have created a special classification to allow ministers, religious professionals and other religious workers to quickly take up positions within a place of worship in the United States.
What is an R-1 Visa?
The R-1 Religious Workers Visa is an opportunity for members of any religion to come to the United States to work for that religion. The R-1 Visa was created to meet the needs of religious organizations who are looking for workers to fill positions that do not typically fit under other employment visa categories.
R-1 Visa Requirements
Depending on the religious worker classification you apply for there are certain requirements you must satisfy. For each of these classifications you must have been a member of that religion for at least two years. In addition, the religion must be a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States.
The three R-1 Religious Worker classifications are as follows:
- Ministers of Religion
- Religious Professionals
- Other Religious Workers
An individual from any genuine religion can qualify for this visa. US immigration uses specific criteria to determine whether the foreign and domestic branches of the religions are part of the same religion. The criteria is applied in a flexible manner to encompass as many of the world’s religions as possible.
Ministers of Religion
In order to qualify as a minister of religion, you must be authorized by the religion to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the “clergy” of that religion. For example, in the case of a member of the Anglican Church, the applicant must be an ordained minister in the church itself.
The major benefit of utilizing the ‘Ministers of Religion’ classification is that this is the only category that can adjust to permanent resident status as a special immigrant while in the United States.
In essence, the ‘Religious Professional’ category classification requires that the individual who has a place within a religious organization to have a certain professional degree.
For example, many religious organizations have community health clinics within their religious centers. In such cases, the religious center may look to hire someone with a nursing degree to serve as a nurse in the clinic. In addition the organization may require the individual to provide care in a manner that is consistent with the understanding of their faith. Thus, their selection may be for an individual who is both a member of their faith and who has the requisite educational background.
Other Religious Workers
Anyone entering the United States to work in a religious vocation or occupation can qualify in the ‘Other Religious Workers’ classification. So long as the position is a religious vocation or occupation and the applicant is a member of the religion, then the applicant does not need to have any education or experience.
R1 Visa: A Religious Occupation is any occupation that primarily relates to carrying out the creed and beliefs of the religion. For example, if a church wanted to hire an individual to do clerical work they would not qualify for this classification as that position would not primarily relate to carrying out the creed and beliefs of that specific religion. However, if the church hired the individual to be a religious translator, the individual could qualify for an R-1 Visa.
R1 Visa: A Religious Vocation is simply a calling to a religious life evidenced by a demonstration of commitment, such as the taking of vows. The benefit of meeting the requirements for a religious vocation is that you do not have to prove that the position advances the creed and beliefs of the religion. However, you must prove that the worker has committed their life to advancing the creed and beliefs of the religion. This commitment means that the worker will be living on the creed and beliefs of the religion 24 hours a day 365 days of the year.
The R-1 Religious Worker Visa
The R-1 Visa is a great option for individuals looking to work within their faith here in the United States. The R-1 Visa not only offers the applicant the opportunity to come into the United States, but provides the applicant’s family with an R-2 Visa status as well.
This means that their spouse and children under 21 can accompany the R-1 Visa holder to the United States for the duration of the R-1 holder’s visa. Typically the visa is valid for 30 months (two and a half years), and it can be renewed once for an additional 30 months.
Free Consultation – We Can Help
Our firm can guide you through the process of obtaining your R-1 Visa. As you consider your options, give us a call or complete the consultation request form on this page. Upon completion of the form we will reach out to you as soon as possible to set up your free consultation.
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Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
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