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R-1 Visa2018-03-13T01:36:08+00:00

R-1 Visa

The Religious Worker (R) visa is for persons seeking to enter the United States (U.S.) to work in a religious capacity on a temporary basis, under provisions of U.S. law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Our approach to processing R-1 Visas

An R-1 is a foreign national who could be temporarily employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.

Important Note: It is very important for prospective employers to file the petition as soon as possible (but not more than 6 months before the proposed employment will begin) to provide adequate time for petition and subsequent visa processing.

Religious workers include persons authorized, by a recognized employing entity, to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion, and workers engaging in a religious vocation or occupation.

  • The applicant must be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S.;
  • The religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, are either exempt from taxation or qualifies for tax-exempt status; and
  • The applicant has been a member of the denomination for two years immediately preceding applying for religious worker status. The applicant is planning to work as a minister of that denomination, or in a religious occupation or vocation for a bona fide, non-profit religious organization (or a tax-exempt affiliate of such an organization). There is no requirement that individuals applying for “R” visas have a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning. However, they must intend to depart the U.S. at the end of their lawful status, absent specific indications or evidence to the contrary. The applicant has resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for the immediate prior year, if he or she has previously spent five years in this category.

Every petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by a prospective or existing U.S. employer through the filing of a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. An R-1 visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval of Form I-129 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the foreign national is visa-exempt (e.g. Canadian), he or she must present the original Form I-797, Notice of Action, reflecting an approval of a valid I-129 R petition at a port of entry.

Important Note: Visa applicants must bring the approved I-129 petition receipt number to the interview, so that petition approval can be verified.

There are certain general requirements which must be satisfied by the petitioning organization as well as by the religious worker, the beneficiary of the petition. These requirements are listed in the chart below.

The petitioning employer must submit Form I-129 including the R-1 Classification Supplement signed by the employer as well as the following supporting documents:

Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Organization

Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Worker

Proof of tax-exempt status
· If the religious organization has its own individual IRS 501(c)(3) letter, provide a currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is a tax-exempt organization
· If the organization is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax-exemption, provide a group ruling
· If the organization is affiliated with the religious denomination, provide:
A currently valid determination letter from the IRS;
Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization;
Organizational literature; and
A religious denomination certification, which is part of the R-1 Classification Supplement to Form I-129 (see the links to the right).
Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation
· Verifiable evidence of how the organization intends to compensate the religious worker, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation. Evidence of compensation may include:
Past evidence of compensation for similar positions
Budgets showing monies set aside for salaries, leases, etc.
Evidence that room and board will be provided to the religious worker
If IRS documentation, such as IRS Form W-2 or certified tax returns, is available, it must be provided
If IRS documentation is not available, an explanation for its absence must be provided, along with comparable, verifiable documentation
If the religious worker will be self-supporting
· Documents that establish the religious worker will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination
· Evidence that establishes that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work in which:
Foreign workers, whether compensated or uncompensated, have previously participated in R-1 status;
Missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated;
The organization provides formal training for missionaries; and
Participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination.
· Evidence that establishes that the organization’s religious denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad
· Evidence of the religious worker’s acceptance into the missionary program
· Evidence of the duties and responsibilities associated with this traditionally uncompensated missionary work
· Copies of the religious worker’s bank records, budgets documenting the sources of self-support (including personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination’s churches), or other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS
Proof of membership
· Evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of Form I-129
If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide:
· A copy of the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents
· Documents reflecting acceptance of the religious worker’s qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the religious worker has completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination. Include transcripts, curriculum, and documentation that establishes that the theological institution is accredited by the denomination
· If the denominations do not require a prescribed theological education, provide:
The religious denomination’s requirements for ordination to minister
A list of duties performed by virtue of ordination
The denomination’s levels of ordination, if any, and
Evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination
Proof of previous R-1 employment (for extension of stay as an R-1)
· If you received salaried compensation, provide IRS documentation that you received a salary, such as an IRS Form W-2 or certified copies of filed income tax returns reflecting such work and compensation for the previous R-1 employment
· If you received non-salaried compensation:
If IRS documentation is available, provide IRS documentation of the non-salaried compensation
If IRS documentation is not available, provide an explanation for the absence of IRS documentation and verifiable evidence of all financial support, including stipends, room and board, or other support for you with a description of the location where you lived, a lease to establish where you lived, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS
· If you received no salary but provided for your own support and that of any dependents, provide verifiable documents to show how support was maintained, such as audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS

Period of Stay

An R-1 status may be granted for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months. An extension of an R-1 status may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The total stay in the United States in an R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months (5 years).

Family of R-1 Visa Holders

R-1 worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. The dependents of an R-1 worker may not accept employment while in the United States in R-2 status.

12Mar, 2012

R-1 Visa Memorandum

This memorandum provides instruction to Immigration Service Officers who adjudicate R-1 nonimmigrant petitions for aliens who are coming to the [...]

USCIS Completes the H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2020

On April 10, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally-mandated regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year (FY) 2020. After completing the random selection process for the regular cap, USCIS also determined that it has received a number of petitions projected as sufficient to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

Read the news release.

Uptick in Site Visit and NOID/NOIR Activity

We have received credible reports from clients and other practitioners that the number of site visits targeting Consulting companies has increased significantly in the past several weeks.

Employees should be made aware that site inspectors could call on them at the end client site unannounced. When this happens, employees must politely ask to see the site inspectors’ badge and id. They should also write down the officer’s name, email id and phone number for future contact.
Site inspectors are not adjudicators and are instead charged with gathering information. Therefore, instead of panicking when this happens, employees should be counseled to treat it just as they would a traffic stop. Identify yourself and respond to any question(s) pertaining to your H-1B status.

Employees should defer questions about the employer’s business, net income, number of employees, organizational hierarchy, etc., to the H.R. manager or H.R. contact within the employer organization.

A failed site visit will result in either a Notice of Intent to Deny (in the case of pending petition), or a Notice of Intent to Revoke in the case of an approved petition. In both instances, Kidambi & Associates, P.C. will assist your organization respond and overcome this challenge.

PERM Approved

This is TRULY GREAT NEWS! Congratulations!
I want to extend a special thanks to Vaman Kidambi for so skillfully helping us through some of the difficulties we faced.

— Sam, USA, E-mail

USCIS Reaches FY 2020 H-1B Regular Cap

USCIS has received a sufficient number of petitions projected as needed to reach the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020. USCIS will next determine if they have received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not prohibited multiple filings (PDF, 119 KB).

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.  Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, are exempt from the FY 2020 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

USCIS Will Begin Premium Processing for Certain FY2020 Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions on May 20, 2019

On May 20, USCIS will begin premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Petitioners who do not file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, concurrently with an FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petition requesting a change of status must wait until premium processing begins on May 20 to submit Form I-907.   

Read the USCIS news release.

USCIS Launches H-1B Employer Data Hub

USCIS has launched an H-1B Employer Data Hub to provide information to the public on employers petitioning for H-1B workers. The data hub is part of their continued effort to increase transparency in employment-based visa programs by allowing the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year (back to FY 2009), NAICS code, employer name, city, state, or ZIP code. This will give the public the ability to calculate approval and denial rates and to review which employers are using the H-1B program. Data for individual fiscal years is available to download on the H-1B Employer Data Hub Files page. To help the public use the data hub and understand the terminology in it, USCIS has also created the Understanding Our H-1B Employer Data Hub page.

USCIS will provide cumulative quarterly updates and annual releases of the data and anticipates updating the H-1B Employer Data Hub quarterly. For example, data for the first quarter (October-December) of a fiscal year will be provided in April of that fiscal year.

Twenty Years and Counting! – Our Continuing Tryst with the H-1B CAP

Each year is different, and this one may be the last when it comes to the present format. The USCIS is changing the H-1B CAP for next year. Employers will no longer be required to file entire petitions to be considered for the CAP next year.

In fact, the Service has been trying to change the system for some time. A document dating back to 2011 has the following to say about the proposed program:

USCIS is proposing to implement a mandatory registration process known as the H-1B Cap Registration.  Under the NPRM, petitioners will be able to register prospective beneficiaries for the random selections instead of filing a full petition.  USCIS is proposing to amend its regulations to provide an alternate H-1B petition filing procedure to streamline and simplify the process for petitioners subject to H-1B numerical limits.  This rule will establish the mandatory Internet-based electronic registration requirement requiring petitioners to register in order to participate in the random selections

Obviously, the program was shelved, and we heard nothing about this until the current administration took over. On January 31, 2019, DHS posted a new rule (to go into effect April 1st) changing the process by which CAP petitions will be selected and adjudicated. Although suspended for this year, USCIS has introduced an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions next year.

Another important change that will actually go into effect this year, is in the way advanced degree holders will be selected. USCIS will first select H-1B petitions (or registrations, from next year) submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. The Service will then select from the remaining eligible petitions, a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption. USCIS hopes that this will likely increase the number of petitions for beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected under the H-1B numerical allocations. Specifically, the change will result in an estimated increase of up to 16% (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected petitions for H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

Here is an easy graphic to help explain the process: