What is an R1 Visa?
The R1 Visa can be obtained by UK members of non-profit vocational associations. To meet the eligibility for this visa, individuals must be able to prove the professional role that they inhabit and what their planned activities in the US will be.
This visa type is not available to lay preachers. The visa is also not available to other religious workers that have not received an employment offer from an organization within the US.
What are the requirements for an R1 Visa?
The R1 Visa can be obtained by UK residents who are wanting to enter the US to be employed as religious workers. In order to be eligible, one must meet the following criteria:
- Be employed in a vocational job for a minimum of 20 hours per week
- Have a life-long dedication to religious practices and functions
- Have a minimum of 2 years membership in any religious organization based in the US, before your initial petition is submitted
- Have received an employment offer from a non-profit religious organization within the US
Is it possible for an R1 Visa holder to apply for a green card?
The basis of this visa type is temporary, and therefore much like other non-immigrant visas, does not have dual intent and does not lead to a permanent residency.
However, if you wish to stay in the US permanently, you can apply for an EB4 Visa. This visa is a permanent work permit, open to a range of categories of people, such as vocational occupations.
There is currently a cap of 5,000 EB4 Visas issued a year. However, religious ministers are not subject to this current limitation, but must obtain a sponsor to be eligible.
Who qualifies as a “Minister of Religion”?
To perform their duties, Ministers of Religion must have received a written form of authorization by a recognized religious denomination. This authorization could include certificates, formal letters, licences or any other form of evidence of a valid qualification. In certain cases, practitioners of Christian Science, officers of the Salvation Army and deacons could be considered as ministers.
Professionals in a Religious Occupation
A religious occupation is anything that involves the habitual engagement in activities that are related to traditional religious functions. This could include catechists, religious broadcasters, workers in religious hospitals, liturgical workers and missionaries.
What qualifies as a Religious Denomination?
To be recognized legally, a religious denomination must have a formal code of doctrine and discipline, as well as ceremonies and religious services. It is necessary that its members, gathered as a religious congregation, have a shared ecclesiastical government, a recognized creed and some form of worship.
In some cases, US based and international religious organizations that are interdenominational, and who are tax exempt, may be be treated formally as religious denominations
Before applicants submit their petition, religious organizations are not required to file the Form I-129 for them. However, applicants must always inform the USCIS of any change of employment, status or an extension of any stay.
How long is the R1 Visa valid for?
The initial validity period of an R1 visa is 3 years, but it is possible to extend this for another 2 years. After this maximum period of 5 years is up, an applicant must reside in an area outside the US for a minimum of 1 year before they can apply for a new R1 visa.
In order to extend your R1 Visa after the first 3 years, an applicant must file a new Form I-129. However, in some cases you will be exempt from having to do this if your employment was classed as seasonal or if you only work within the US on a part-time basis whilst residing somewhere outside the US.
If you interrupt your religious functions before your R1 visa expires, you must immediately leave the US.
How do I apply for an R1 Visa?
Your official application process will begin when your employer based in the US files your Form I-129. It is necessary that you include adequate supporting documentation with this Form, such as proof of your religious duties.
Once you have submitted this, you will be summoned for an interview. In this interview, the USCIS will explore and examine your purpose for wanting to enter the US and what your role is within your religious denomination. The USCIS may also need to inspect the principal place where the worshippers of your religious denomination generally congregate.
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It is possible for R1 Visa holders to pursue training or study within the US. However, it is important to remember that religious pupils do not qualify for the R1 Visa itself.
Furthermore, it is imperative that all applicants work for a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to meet the R1 requirements that allow your visa to remain valid. This means you cannot engage in full time education or training, unless the training is relevant to your vocational role.
If you want to receive practical training whilst in the US, you can apply for a H3 Visa.
If you are an R1 Visa holder, it is possible for you to bring a spouse or unmarried children that are under the age of 21 years old to the US with you.
When initially filing your petition, your employer could apply for an R2 status for your family members. This would allow them to reside in the US for the same amount of time as you, but they will be unable to seek any form of employment.
If you do want to bring dependents with you, it is necessary that you prove your kinship with them and that you are able to support them financially for the duration of your stay.
If your dependents only want to visit you, they can apply for a tourist visa by submitting B2 Visa documentation.
When applying for an R1 Visa, Total Law can put you in touch with an experienced and brilliant lawyer to help you through the process. They will help you:
- Review and strengthen your supporting portfolio of evidence
- Get translations of documentation if necessary
- Liaise with your US based employer
- Help you fill out documentation, such as the Form I-129 to the highest standard possible
Contact us today if you would like to access these services at 0333 305 9375.