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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 [...]

Not So Fast – New Policy Makes Satisfying the One-Year Qualifying Employment for L-1 Harder

Mr. G, the president of a multinational company (MNC), wanted me to explore immigration options for a prospective employee (KG).

KG is an international student at a U.S. institution, currently in the Optional Practical Training phase of his degree, who works for the branch of the MNC in the U.S. Mr. G wants KG to immediately join the U.S. branch of the MNC as a Manager, and it looked feasible because prior to entering the U.S. in July 2015, KG had been an executive-level employee, for a period of one-year, at an affiliate of the MNC in Singapore.

Since this period of employment was within three years of being admitted to the U.S., a change of status petition would have been possible because pursuant to INA Section 214(c)(2) , an otherwise eligible foreign national may be classified as an L-1 nonimmigrant if, “within 3 years preceding the time of his application for admission into the United States, [the foreign national] has been employed continuously for one year by a firm or corporation or other legal entity or an affiliate or subsidiary thereof…and seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to continue to render his services to the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate thereof in a capacity that is managerial, executive…” INA Section 101(a)(15)(L).

However, the regulation at 8 CFR 214.2(i)(3)(iii) requires the qualifying employment to have been full-time and having occurred “within the three years preceding the filing of the petition.”

The USCIS recently issued a policy memo clarifying the reference point for determining the one-year foreign employment requirement. The USCIS’ policy memo tries to reconcile whether qualifying employment ought to have occurred at the time of admission (in some cases in a different nonimmigrant status), or the filing of the nonimmigrant petition on Form I-129.

Unfortunately for KG, the memo eliminates the possibility of being able to change to L-1 status. This is because, according to the memo,

“Periods of employment with the qualifying organization in the United States as a dependent or student do not result in an adjustment of the three-year period for purposes of determining whether the beneficiary has met the one-year continuous foreign employment requirement.” (Emphasis added.)

Further, the memo states:

“if a beneficiary was admitted as an F-1 nonimmigrant and later applies for optional practical training (OPT) employment with the qualifying organization, the time spent in F-1 nonimmigrant status will not result in an adjustment to the three-year period, because the purpose of admission was for study and not to work “for” the qualifying organization.  Moreover, this would not change even if the qualifying organization financed the F-1 nonimmigrant’s studies.  In neither of these instances should the three-year period be adjusted.”

The memo goes on to clarify that periods of employment in the United States for the petitioning organization may not be used to satisfy the requirement.

So, the fact that KG is currently an employee of the U.S. company doesn’t help his cause. From an outside perspective, with the unemployment rate being so low and American businesses seeming to have a hard time finding employees, it sure seems a bit shortsighted.

The memo makes it clear that the one-year foreign employment requirement, where the beneficiary must demonstrate continuous employment abroad for one year out of the three preceding years, must be met at the time that the petitioner files the L-1 petition.

The USCIS has effectively eliminated nonimmigrants currently in the U.S. in L-2 and H4 EAD, or F-1 OPT from qualifying for a change to L-1 status, because it does not consider them to have come to this country to work “for” the qualifying organization.

In this case, KG’s two plus year break in employment due to his study in the U.S., during the three years preceding the filing of the L-1 petition, will render him unable to meet the one-year foreign employment requirement.

His only chance to return to work for the U.S. organization in L-1 status, would require him to first leave the U.S. and rejoin a “qualifying organization” abroad for a one-year period. This is not a welcome change in policy for nonimmigrants who would otherwise qualify for an L-1. By limiting eligibility, the USCIS has effectively eliminated certain eligible nonimmigrants from filing for this sort of change of status.

Businesses should be concerned about this change in policy, and should reach out to their congressional members and request they use their oversight power to ask USCIS why this more restrictive policy has been implemented. Another option is to reach out to your local universities and see if they’d be willing to partner in amplifying this issue which could impact their foreign student interest and enrolment.

Yes, this is yet another acronym-heavy, legalese-sounding issue, but it is another brick in the invisible wall as well. We need to highlight these policies and tear down the wall or families, businesses, and universities will suffer. Our shared prosperity will suffer. Whether you are an immigration lawyer, or a client, a business leader or a staffer on the Hill – raise these questions and speak up!

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018

USCIS announced late Friday (2/15/2019) that it would resume premium processing on Tuesday, Feb. 19, for all H-1B petitions filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018. This means change of employer petitions filed after this date, or immediately will not benefit from the resumption of premium processing.  The previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing remains in effect for H-1B petitions to which it applied that were filed on or after Dec. 22, 2018. On Jan. 28, we resumed premium processing for FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS to Publish Revised Form I-539 and New Form I-539A

USCIS has revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and will publish the revised form on their website on March 11, 2019. Beginning March 11, 2019, USCIS will only accept the revised Form I-539 with an edition date of 02/04/19. They will reject any Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/23/16 or earlier.

They will also be publishing a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11. Form I-539A replaces the Supplement A provided in previous versions of Form I-539. Form I-539A can only be submitted with Form I-539; it cannot be filed as a standalone form.

The revised Form I-539 includes the following significant changes:

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A, which will be available on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions to be published on March 11.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.

USCIS will reject any Form I-539 that is missing any of the required signatures or biometrics fees, including those required for Form I-539A.

H-1B CAP 2019 – Are You Ready?

Join us for a free webinar on February 22, 2019 12pm-1pm EST.  Register Now
The idea behind this webinar is to harness the valuable experience learned from processing H-1Bs from prior years and how various RFEs have created a valuable source of information on what the USCIS is looking for and how to avoid familiar issues. We plan to discuss best practices that will ensure stress-free filing and success for FY 2020.

DHS Announces Final Rule for a More Effective and Efficient H-1B Visa Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted today for public inspection, a final rule amending regulations governing H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. The final rule reverses the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, and it introduces an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. The rule will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 31, and will go into effect on April 1, though the electronic registration requirement will be suspended for the fiscal year (FY) 2020 cap season.

“These simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

Effective April 1, USCIS will first select H-1B petitions (or registrations, once the registration requirement is implemented) submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will then select from the remaining eligible petitions, a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption. Changing the order in which USCIS counts these allocations 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.

USCIS will begin accepting H-1B cap petitions for FY 2020 on April 1, 2019. The reverse selection order will apply to petitions filed for the FY 2020 H-1B cap season. Petitioners may file an H-1B petition no more than six months before the employment start date requested for the beneficiary. USCIS will provide H-1B cap filing instruction on uscis.gov in advance of the filing season.

Importantly, after considering public feedback, USCIS will be suspending the electronic registration requirement for the FY 2020 cap season to complete user testing and ensure the system and process are fully functional. Once implemented, the electronic registration requirement will require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption, to first electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period. Only those whose registrations are selected will be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. USCIS expects that the electronic registration requirement, once implemented, will reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS and petitioners.

Additionally, USCIS will publish a notice in the Federal Register to announce the initial implementation of the H-1B registration process in advance of the cap season in which it will implement the requirement. Prior to implementation, USCIS will conduct outreach to ensure petitioners understand how to access and use the system. Once implemented, USCIS will announce the designated electronic registration period at least 30 days in advance for each fiscal year it is required.

On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, instructing DHS to “propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of our immigration system.” The executive order specifically mentioned the H-1B program and directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

USCIS Makes Two More Applications Available for Online Filing

USCIS announced today that applicants can now complete and file Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, and Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 online.

Applicants can file Form N-600 to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship for themselves or their minor children if they:

  • Were born abroad and are claiming U.S. citizenship at birth through their parents; or
  • Automatically became a U.S. citizen after birth, but before they turned 18 years old.

Applicants can file Form N-600K if they regularly reside in a foreign country and want to claim U.S. citizenship based on their parents. Applicants must secure lawful admission to the U.S. to complete Form N-600K processing. Children of U.S. service members have separate requirements for naturalization under INA Section 322.

Forms N-600 and N-600K are part of the growing number of documents that USCIS has made available for easy and convenient online filing. This list includes:

  • Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card;
  • Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings;
  • Form N-400, Application for Naturalization; and
  • Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document.

To file a Form N-600 or N-600K online, an applicant must first create a USCIS online account. Through an online account, the applicant can securely and conveniently:

  • Complete Form N-600 or N-600K;
  • Submit accompanying evidence;
  • Upload passport-style photos;
  • Pay the filing fee;
  • Respond to USCIS requests for evidence;
  • Monitor the status of their application; and
  • Manage their contact information, including updating their address.

Attorneys and accredited representatives who have an online account can also file online for their clients and perform the above listed functions.

USCIS still accepts the latest paper version of Forms N-600 and N-600K. Because military service members do not pay a filing fee when submitting Form N-600 on their own behalf, they cannot currently file this application online.