R-1 Visa 2018-03-13T01:36:08+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.

Let’s Not Forget the H-4 EAD Issue!

In a letter dated, April 4, 2018, the Director of the USCIS ( Director Lee Francis Cissna was detailed to Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff at the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2015 until earlier this year) outlined regulatory changes to the H-4 EAD program:

With regard to regulations, our plans include proposing regulatory changes to remove H-4 dependent spouses from the class of aliens eligible for employment authorization, thereby reversing the 2015 final rule that granted such eligibility.

The H-4 EAD is not available to all H-4 dependents. There are certain threshold qualifying criteria that need to be fulfilled before one becomes eligible for an EAD. Among other things, the H-1B spouse must have, either a labor certification application that has been pending for over 365 days, or an approved immigrant petition. In most instances, the eligible applicant is from a country where there is a severe immigration backlog. Oftentimes, applicants must wait anywhere from 15 to 20 years before they can become permanent residents.

If eliminated, the H-4 EAD program would affect thousands. Far from being monolithic, the H-4 EAD issue involves extraordinary complexity. It would be a tragedy to see it disappear. I came across a few scenarios that were extremely legitimate and deserving:

Earlier this year, I spoke with a wonderful couple from India. Amit, is on an H-1B and his immigrant petition has recently been approved; Ruchi is a qualified doctor from India and had given up a very lucrative clinical practice to follow her husband to the U.S. As we got talking, she told me that she was frustrated with not being able to secure a residency program of her choice unless she had an employment authorization document. We immediately filed the Application and she is now ready to commence a residency program in June. Unfortunately, eliminating the H-4 EAD would render Ruchi incapable of completing her residency.

Huan (Yvonne) is from China. Her husband Hahn is currently waiting for his priority date to become current.  Yvonne was an acupuncturist in Shanghai and had been itching to get back to practicing. Last year, she attended a naturopathic conference in Phoenix and made several connections. Specifically, a medical group wanted to use her services as part of their pain management practice. We filed an obtained an H-4 EAD for her to commence employment with the Group. Yvonne thought the H-4 EAD was godsend and is now working her magic with patients trying acupuncture as an alternative to opioids. In a nation beset with problems caused by addiction to prescription medication, her services would be invaluable. It would be a tragedy is she is unable to continue working.

Megha is a big data scientist and works for a very large marketing and analytics company on the West Coast. She came to the U.S. on a student visa in 1999. She got her first H-1B sometime in 2012 and has been working at various companies. She got married to Ravi, her colleague (also on an H-1B) in 2015. It never occurred to Megha that she was running out of time on the H-1B. She faced the possibility of having to stop working when she maxed out on time. Therefore, it was extremely fortunate that Ravi’s employer had filed an immigrant petition that was approved just in time; she was able to switch to the H-4 EAD and continue working for her employer. In Megha’s case, it would take approximately 15 plus years before she becomes eligible for permanent residency!

The H-4 EAD is a limited option for a select few H-4 dependent spouses. It does not extend to children. The H-4 EAD also does not permit continued employment if the underlying H-1B/H4 visa is not extended. The majority of H-4 EAD beneficiaries, statistics show, are women and that only a little over 100,000 have received the card since the program was implemented in 2015. It is also evident that the program is mainly used by nonimmigrants from India and China.

The benefits of the program including retention of global talent far outweigh the minimal benefit its cancellation is likely to offer the U.S. economy and more specifically contribute to saving U.S. jobs. In fact, several industry organizations committed to growing the U.S. economy support the program. Why then is the current administration trying so hard to cull it? One can only assume that meaningful immigration reform has given way to prejudice and a rush to close every avenue of immigration currently available.

Let us not give into our fears, but instead balance our priorities by reexamining the real issue here.

USCIS Completes the H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2019

On April 11, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally-mandated cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap, for FY 2019.

USCIS received 190,098 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 2, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS announced on April 6, that it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 and the master’s cap of 20,000. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees.

 

New E-Verify.gov Website a User-Friendly Source to Verify Employment Eligibility

USCIS today announced the launch of new website, E-Verify.gov. This is the authoritative source for information on electronic employment eligibility verification. E-Verify.gov is for employers, employees and the general public.

The user-friendly website provides information about E-Verify and Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, including employee rights and employer responsibilities in the employment verification process. E-Verify.gov allows employers to enroll in E-Verify directly and permits current users to access their accounts. Individuals with myE-Verify accounts can also access their accounts through E-Verify.gov.

E-Verify is a free, easy-to-use internet-based system. Employers can access E-Verify anytime, anywhere directly from a web browser. Nearly all employees are confirmed as work-authorized instantly or within 24 hours. The system, which has nearly 800,000 enrolled employers, compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 to records available to the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to verify authorization to work in the U.S.

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American executive order to help reduce illegal immigration and preserve jobs for U.S. workers. To support these objectives, USCIS encourages all U.S. employers to verify all new hires through E-Verify.

Green Card

Thanks a lot Andres, I owe you and Attorney Kidambi a huge party and as promised I will come down there for sure. I had the best experience working with all of you.

— Sundar

FY 2019 H-1B CAP Reached

UPDATE: On April 6, 2018, USCIS reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019. USCIS also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

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, will also not be counted toward the FY 2019 H-1B cap.

USCIS H-1B Cap page:  https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/h-1b-fiscal-year-fy-2019-cap-season

Undeliverable Permanent Resident and Employment Authorization Cards and Travel Documents to be Destroyed After 60 Days

Starting April 2, USCIS will destroy Permanent Resident Cards, Employment Authorization Cards and Travel Documents returned as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service after 60 business days if USCIS is not contacted by the document’s intended recipient to provide the correct address.

USCIS encourages applicants to report a change of address within 10 days of relocation using the procedures outlined at uscis.gov/addresschange.

 

USCIS Updates Webpage to Share More Accurate Processing Times

USCIS has launched a pilot to test a redesigned processing times webpage that displays the data for all forms in an easier-to-read format and also tests a new way of collecting data and calculating the processing times for some forms.

The pilot will test four forms using a new automated methodology for calculating processing times. The four forms are:

Form N-400, Application for Naturalization;
Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card;
Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; and
Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.

The new webpage makes it easier for anyone to see approximately how long it will take USCIS to process a form, which will help users determine when it is necessary to contact USCIS to make an inquiry if their case is outside the normal processing time.

For the four pilot forms, the information on the webpage reflects a new methodology for collecting and calculating processing times. The new methodology is automated, more accurate, and allows USCIS to post data on processing times within two weeks, compared to six weeks under the old methodology.

The updated page displays processing times in a range for each form based on the date USCIS receives it. The low end of the range for pilot forms shows the time it takes to complete 50 percent of cases, and the high end shows the time it takes to complete 93 percent of cases. The high end for the non-pilot forms will be adjusted by 30 percent above current cycle times to reflect the time it takes to complete a majority of the cases.

Applicants, petitioners, and requestors can create an online account at uscis.gov/casestatus to track the status of their cases. They may make an “outside normal processing time” case inquiry for any cases pending longer than the time listed for the high end of the range by submitting a service request online or calling the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283.

USCIS will continue to seek user feedback during the test phase and expand this methodology to additional forms in the future.

USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions

Starting April 2, 2018, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 cap. USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. This suspension is expected to last until Sept. 10, 2018. During this time, USCIS will continue to accept premium processing requests for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the FY 2019 cap. USCIS will notify the public before resuming premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions or making any other premium processing updates.

During this temporary suspension, USCIS will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition. If a petitioner submits one combined check for the fees for Form I-907 and Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, USCIS will reject both forms. When USCIS resumes premium processing, petitioners may file a Form I-907 for FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions that remain pending.

Requesting Expedited Processing

While premium processing is suspended, a petitioner may submit a request to expedite an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition if it meets the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. It is the petitioner’s responsibility to demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and USCIS encourages petitioners to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request. USCIS review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and will grant requests at the discretion of USCIS office leadership.

Why USCIS  is Temporarily Suspending Premium Processing for These Petitions

This temporary suspension will help us reduce overall H-1B processing times. By temporarily suspending premium processing, USCIS will be able to:

Process long-pending petitions, which have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and
Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.

We encourage H-1B petitioners to subscribe to email updates on the H-1B FY 2019 Cap Season webpage.