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R-1 Visa/Religious Workers

Religious organizations and affiliated institutions seeking to employ foreign nationals as religious workers must navigate the R-1 visa process. Successfully petitioning for R-1 nonimmigrant status, ensuring compliance with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requirements, is often harder than people anticipate. When you are looking for guidance through the petition process, come to my Burnsville firm, Vicki Anderson Immigration Law, LLC, where I help my clients earn the immigration statuses they deserve.

My name is Vicki Anderson, and from verifying tax-exempt statuses to demonstrating affiliation and compensation arrangements, I offer comprehensive support for clients throughout Minnesota. Let me help you explore the challenges of R-1 petitions, including site visit expectations and options for prospective employees already in the U.S. or abroad.

Guidance For R-1 Nonimmigrants

If you are a religious organization (i.e., a place of worship) or an organization affiliated with a religious denomination, then you may be able to hire a foreign national as a religious worker. Before hiring that individual, your organization needs to file an R-1 petition with USCIS. I will discuss with you the requirements for a successful R-1 petition, including the following:

  1. Your organization is tax exempt as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations and your organization currently has a valid determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In some cases, your organization may qualify as a subordinate under a group exemption.
  2. The position being offered is as a minister (clergy) or is a religious vocation or a religious occupation.
  3. Your prospective employee has been a member of the same denomination as your organization for at least the two years immediately preceding the filing of the R-1 petition.
  4. Your organization will compensate the religious worker. Although the regulations also state that a religious worker may be self-supporting, in reality, some compensation needs to be provided, which may be from another source.

An R-1 petition may be filed for a part-time position as long as the religious worker will be working at least 20 hours per week.

Understanding Site Visits And Visa Processes For Religious Workers

Before an organization’s first R-1 petition is adjudicated, there will be an unannounced site visit by the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate. During that site visit, the officer will speak with the petitioner (the person who signed the forms and letter of support on behalf of the organization) and take photographs, and they may also want to speak with the beneficiary (the prospective employee) and review documents.

If your prospective employee is already in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status, a change of status can be requested when the R-1 petition is filed with the USCIS. If your prospective employee lives outside the U.S., once the R-1 petition has been approved, your prospective employee will need to apply for an R-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the U.S. to start employment.

Immigrant religious workers are permitted to be in R-1 status for a total of five years. An organization may request R-1 classification for no more than 30 months at a time. Thus, to take advantage of the entire five-year period, usually 30 months is requested with the first R-1 petition, and then a petition to extend R-1 status for the remaining 30 months is filed toward the end of the first 30-month period.

Whether you are a representative of a church, a mosque, a religious school, a religious retreat center or some other type of religious organization, I can assist you with your R-1 petition and the subsequent R-1 visa, if needed.

Contact Vicki Anderson Immigration Law, LLC

I am here to discuss timing and strategies with you as I guide you through this process. Over the years, I have helped many religious workers become U.S. permanent residents. To schedule a consultation, call 651-968-0551 or fill out the online contact form.