- What are the requirements for the R1 Visa?
- Who qualifies as a Minister of Religion?
- What qualifies as a religious denomination?
- What supporting documents are required for Form I-129?
- How do I apply for an R1 visa?
- How much does an R1 visa cost?
- How long is the R1 Visa valid for?
- Can an R1 Visa holder apply for a green card?
- Can Dependents of R1 visas come with me to the US?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What are the requirements for the R1 Visa?
To apply for an R1 Visa, applicants who are Canadian citizens must meet the following criteria:
- Be a member of a confirmed religion for at least two years
- The religion must have a non-profit organization that is based in the U.S
- Must have job offer/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
Who qualifies as a Minister of Religion?
To perform their duties in the desired capacity, Ministers of Religion must have received a written form of authorization by a recognized religious denomination. This authorization should include a variety of certificates, formal letters, licenses, or any other form of evidence that may deem appropriate and acceptable for a valid qualification.
In some cases, practitioners of Christian Science, officers of the Salvation Army, and deacons could be classified as ministers attaining this particular visa.
Professional in a religious occupation
A religious occupation can be classified as anything that involves a habitual engagement in activities that are directly related to traditional religious functions. This title could be extended to any person who falls under the following criteria:
- Religious broadcasters
- Workers who are employed in religious hospitals
- Catechists (a teacher of the principles of the Christian religion)
- Liturgical workers (a performer of ceremonial rituals related to church services)
- Missionaries (promoters of faith)
What qualifies as a religious denomination?
A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion, which operates under a common name, tradition, and identity. To be recognized legally, a religious denomination must have a formal code of doctrine and discipline, as well as religious services and ceremonies.
It is necessary that the members of the religious denomination, when gathered together as a religious congregation, all have a shared ecclesiastical government, a recognized and notable creed, alongside some form of worship.
In some cases, both US-based and international religious organizations that are interdenominational (relating to more than one religious denomination) may be treated formally as religious denominations, so long as they are tax exempt.
Before individual applicants submit their petitions, it is important to note that a religious organization will not be required to file Form I-129 for them.
However, applicants under a religious denomination must always inform the USCIS of any change of employment, status, or intention to extend their stay in the US.
The application process can be quite confusing and involved, so make sure that you seek help from a professional immigration lawyer to make sure that you are submitting the appropriate documentation.
What supporting documents are required for Form I-129?
To begin the application process for a RI visa, the US-based employer has to file Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) on the Canadian citizen’s behalf.
It is within this application that your sponsor must include adequate supporting documentation,
- If the organization is a religious one, they must submit a letter from the IRS proving they are tax exempt
- If the organization is group tax-exempt, it must submit a letter from the IRS proving their status
- If the organization has a religious affiliation but is not defined as a religious organization, it must submit these documents:
- Letter from IRS proving they are tax exempt
- Proof that they have a religious affiliation
- Proof that they have a religious purpose and description of their activities
- A letter from another religious organization stating that the petitioning organization has a religious affiliation
Proof of compensation for the religious workers with a salary or benefits like:
- Old documents showing the compensation of religious workers in similar positions
- Documentation that they will provide accommodation to the worker
- Budget documents that show planned expenses for salaries or benefits
How do I apply for an R1 Visa?
If Form I-129 is approved, the USCIS will send Form I-797, Notice of Action to continue the application.
The Canadian applicant will then be able to complete DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application), pay the $190 fee, and schedule the visa interview.
It is during this interview that the USCIS will ask questions and examine your purpose for wanting to enter the US, and what your role entails within your religious denomination. They will require the following documents:
- Valid passport
- One photograph as per the USA Photo Requirements
- Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Receipts proving all fees have been paid
- The visa interview appointment letter
- Form I-797 to prove that your petition has been approved
Evidence of your eligibility for the R1 visa:
- Evidence of belonging to the religion for the past 2 years (at least)
- Recommendation letters from other religious affiliations you have had
- Official contract with your U.S employer
- Educational qualifications that prove you have the right to work in a religious position (like a minister)
- Proof of financial support or that the employer will compensate you
The USCIS may also need to inspect the principal place where the worshippers of your religious denomination generally congregate, and it is at their discretion if they wish to interview others within the congregation.
Depending on how the visa interview plays out, you may get your approval there and then. If the immigration officer needs some more time to consider your application, you will receive notice from the USCIS within the month.
How much does an R1 visa cost?
The fees associated with the R1 visa are:
- $460 for the petition to be filed by the US-based employer
- $190 for the application fee
- $1,225 fee for optional, premium processing.
How long is the R1 Visa valid for?
The validity period for an R1 Visa is for three years. It is possible to extend the R1 visa, however, for an additional two years, with a maximum period of five years in total.
After five years is completed, you will have to reside outside of the US for a minimum of at least one year. After one year, you will be eligible to apply for a new R1 Visa, or a different, eligible visa, and the process begins from the beginning.
To extend your R1 Visa after the first three initial years, you will have to file a new Form I-129, before the current visa expires.
In some cases, however, you will not have to file a Form I-129, if your employment was classed as seasonal, or if you only worked in the US on a part-time basis, whilst residing full-time somewhere outside of the US.
It is important to note that if you interrupt your religious functions before the expiration of your R1 Visa, say, for example, you decide to study or consider a new career, you will have to leave the US, ASAP.
If you don’t want to leave the US, you will need to look at changing your visa status to a different category that will more appropriately apply to you.
Can an R1 Visa holder apply for a green card?
Because the R1 Visa is a non-immigration and temporary visa, it does not have a dual intent status and therefore does not lead you down a path of gaining permanent resident status within the US.
However, if you do wish to stay in the US permanently, depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible to apply for an EB4 Visa. This is a visa that has a permanent work permit, available to a range of categories of people that include vocational occupations.
It is important to note that the current rules state there is a statutory cap of 5,000 EB4 Visas that can be issued each year.
However, religious ministers are not subject to this current limitation, but you must obtain a US-based sponsor to be eligible without falling under the limited available EB4 Visas.
Can Dependents of R1 visas come with me to the US?
Dependents are permitted to move from Canada to live in the US alongside their R1 visa holder family member. To be eligible as a dependent, they must be the married spouse of the R1 visa holder and/or the unmarried children who are under 21 years old. Dependents are not considered family members such as grandparents, siblings, cousins or others.
Dependents can apply simultaneously with the R1 visa holder, or at a later date for an R2 visa. They will need to provide documents as evidence of their relationship to the R1 visa holder such as a valid marriage certificate and/or birth certificates.
As R2 visa holders, dependents are permitted to live in the US under the same restrictions and validity as the R1 visa holder.
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To qualify for an R-1 visa, you must be one of the following:
- Minister of religion
- Working in a professional capacity, either in a religious vocation or occupation
- Other religious workers working in a religious occupation or a religious vocation
You are permitted to get Green Card, or permanent residence if you have an R1 visa. This can be done by usual methods of marriage, family, or changing your status by applying for the EB-4 Green Card, which allows religious workers to get permanent residence in the U.S.
As a Canadian with a valid R1 visa, you may:
- Study in the U.S.
- Travel freely in and out of the U.S.
- Receive salary for services performed
- Apply for Green Card
- Apply for R-2 dependent visa for your spouse and unmarried children below 21 years
No, dependents are not permitted to obtain employment with an R-2 visa.