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 [...]

Employment Based Green Card w/Child Aging Out

We are in receipt of the approval letter for our Green Card. Thank you for all your hard work with the applications and salvaging our case from the ashes . This is a big miracle and relief and it comes with a lot of gratefulness. Words cannot express all that I would like to say about this journey.

— Mary, USA, E-mail

Premium Processing Fee Increase Effective Oct. 19, 2020

USCIS today announced it will increase fees for premium processing, effective Oct. 19, as required by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, Pub. L. No. 116-159, signed into law on Oct. 1. The USCIS premium processing service allows petitioners to pay an additional filing fee to expedite the adjudication of certain forms, generally within 15 days. The Act included the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, which requires USCIS to establish and collect additional premium processing fees, and to use those additional funds for expanded purposes.

Pub. L. No. 116-159 increases the fee for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, from $1,440 to $2,500, for all filings except those from petitioners filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting H-2B or R-1 non-immigrant status. The premium processing fee for petitioners filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R-1 non-immigrant status is increasing from $1,440 to $1,500.

Any Form I-907 postmarked on or after Oct. 19 must include the new fee amount. If USCIS receives a Form I-907 postmarked on or after Oct. 19 with the incorrect filing fee, we will reject the Form I-907 and return the filing fee. For filings sent by commercial courier (such as UPS, FedEx and DHL), the postmark date is the date reflected on the courier receipt.

Pub. L. No. 116-159 also gives USCIS the ability to expand premium processing to additional forms and benefit requests, but USCIS is not yet taking that action. Any expansion of premium processing to other forms will be implemented as provided in the legislation.

DOL and USCIS issue interim Final Rules

I.  DOL Interim Final Rule on Computation of Prevailing Wage Levels

The Department of Labor is issuing rules amending the regulations governing permanent labor certifications and Labor Condition Applications to incorporate changes to the computation of prevailing wage levels. The IFR will be published today, 10/8/20, and will be effective on the date of publication. This rule revises regulations for Prevailing Wage computation. Click here for copy of DOL interim final rule (IFR). The rule will immediately have the following effect:

  1. Prevailing wages are computed by assessing percentiles of the average wage for the offered occupation. The IFR amends the computation of prevailing wage levels, resulting in higher prevailing wages for all occupations for each OES-based wage level in the following ways:
  • Level I wage is increased from 17th percentile to 45th percentile;
  • Level II wage is increased from 34th percentile to 62nd percentile;
  • Level III wage is increased from 50th percentile to 78th percentile; and
  • Level IV wage is increased from 67th percentile to 95th percentile.
  1. This rule will only apply to applications for prevailing wage determination (PWD) pending with the NPWC as of the effective date of the regulation; applications for prevailing wage determinations filed with the NPWC on or after the effective date of the regulation; and LCAs filed with DOL on or after the effective date of the regulation where the OES survey data is the prevailing wage source, and where the employer did not obtain the PWD from the NPWC prior to the effective date of the regulation.
  2. DOL will not apply the new regulations to any previously-approved prevailing wage determinations, permanent labor certification applications, or LCAs, either through reopening or through issuing supplemental prevailing wage determinations or through notices of suspension, invalidation, or revocation.
  3. Employers that rely on LCAs or PWDs will see an immediate increase to the wages associates with each wage level. This will effectively increase the “required wage” associated with H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 benefit requests, as the “required” wage is defined as the higher of the actual wage and the prevailing wage. The IFR will result in higher wages associated with employment-based immigrant visa petitions that rely on OES-based PWD applications.

II.   DOL Issues Implementation FAQs on Interim Final Rule on Computation of Prevailing Wage Levels

DOL OFLC issued FAQs on the implementation of the Interim Final Rule, Strengthening Wage Protections for the Temporary and Permanent Employment of Certain Aliens in the United States. The IFR will be published in the Federal Register today, October 8, 2020.

III.   USCIS Interim Final Rule Revising Definition of “Specialty Occupation”

USCIS issues interim final rule (IFR) which revises the definition of the term “specialty occupation,” among other changes to the H-1B regulations. The IFR will be published in the Federal Register today, 10/8/20, and will be effective 60 days after publication.

This rule revises regulations regarding the H-1B non-immigrant visa program. The rule’s changes to the H-1B program restrict eligibility for the program in several ways, including:

  1. Revising the definition of H-1B specialty occupation to include the requirement of a specific relationship between the required degree field(s) and the duties of the offered position. In other words, persons with unrelated degrees (e.g., BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering for a Software Engineer position) will no longer qualify, or find it very hard to show that they are qualified to perform the duties of the position. While this does not offer clarity on how the Service is likely to treat “experience” evaluations, based on current trends, it will become harder to use experience when documenting eligibility
  2. The rule also restores the requirement that employers provide contracts, work orders, itineraries or similar evidence to prove employer-employee relationship when sending H-1B workers to third party worksites.  This requirement was defeated in federal court, and earlier this year DHS retracted its memo enforcing this requirement for third party placements, but this rule restores this requirement
  3. The rule reduces the current three-year maximum validity period to one year. This is similar to what is currently the rule when extending O-1 Visas
  4. It also increases and expands DHS’ power to determine compliance with worksite inspections and to oversee compliance before, during, and after an H-1B petition is approved. Inspections may be conducted at an employer’s headquarters, satellite locations, and work sites, including third-party worksites.  USCIS will have the authority to deny or revoke H-1B petitions if it determines the employer or third party fails or refuses to cooperate with site visits.

H/L Dependents, F, H-4 EAD, EADs, Multinational Executive/Manager I-140s Granted Premium Processing

On September 30, 2020 the President signed H.R. 8337 the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, which will fund the government through December 11, 2020. Included in the Act is language from the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (H.R. 8089), which seeks to address USCIS’s budget shortfall.

The relevant language begins on page 30 of the Act. Please note that while the law takes effect immediately, the increased fees and expanded availability of premium processing will not take effect until USCIS is able to implement them.

The bill would:

  1. Immediately give USCIS access to premium processing funds to pay for operational expenses, which are otherwise reserved for infrastructure improvement.
  2. Authorizes premium processing services to be provided to:
    1. Employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents;
    2. Form I-140 petitions;
    3. Form I-539;
    4. Form I-765; and
    5. Any other immigration benefit type deemed appropriate by the Secretary.
  3. Increases the premium processing fee for benefit requests that are already eligible for premium processing services from $1,440 to $2,500, except for H-2B and R-1 petitions.
  4. Requires rulemaking to set fees for expanded premium processing services, but it must be consistent with the following:
    1. EB-1 petitions for Multinational Managers and Executives or EB-2 NIW petitions – fee is no greater than $2,500 and processing time is no greater than 45 days.
    2. Change of status requests for F, J and M – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
    3. Change of status requests for dependents seeking E, H, L, O, P and R – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
    4. Form I-765 – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
  5. Allows for a biennial adjustment of premium processing fees based on the Consumer Price Index without rulemaking.
  6. Clarifies that the processing time clock does not begin until “all prerequisites for adjudication are received” by DHS.
  7. Ensures that providing expanded premium processing services does not result in an increase in processing times for other benefit applications.
  8. Requires a semi-annual congressional briefing and that within 180 days, USCIS provide a five year plan on establishing:
    1. Electronic filing procedures for all applications and petitions;
    2. Acceptance of electronic filing at all locations; and
    3. Issuance of all correspondence and notices electronically.

Fee Schedule for I-485 and other USCIS Filings

On September 29, 2020, a district court stayed the implementation and the effective date of the August 2020 Final Rule, which changed the fee schedule and required new versions of several forms, in its entirety pending final adjudication of this matter. (ILRC et al., v. Wolf, et al., 9/29/20)

As of September 30, 2020, many of you are wondering how long the injunction will remain in effect and whether the Service will require additional fees later. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say with any certainty how long the rule will remain enjoined.

The government has up to 60 days to appeal the decision. As the decision rests on significant part on the authority of Chad Wolf, we may gain insight by looking at the government’s handling of Casa de Maryland, Inc. v. Wolf which also found his appointment unlawful on September 11, 2020.

To date, the government has not filed an appeal in that case. Another factor to consider is that the District Court of D.C. is also reviewing a challenge to the fee rule in Northwest Immigrants Rights Project v. USCIS; however, there has not yet been a ruling in that case.

For now, we are recommending using old fees for all cases until further notice.

So, please continue to use $700 for I-140 and $1,225 for I-485 (<14 have a special fee).

For H-1Bs, $460+applicable additional fees.

Downgrading from EB2 to EB3 – What You Need to Know and Consider before Filing

The October Visa Bulletin has been released and there is significant movement in priority dates, especially for EB3 India and China. See figure below.

For those with pre-approved I-140s in the EB2 category, the possibility of filing a second application under the EB3 category and concurrently filing an Application to Adjust Status is both tantalizing and disconcerting at the same time. Several websites loudly proclaim the ease of filing and the enormous benefit it offers the applicant.

I have been asked to consider this possibility by several clients and I wanted to share some thoughts with you.

  1. How did we get here?

Here is the question that begs asking: why are the EB2s PDs behind the EB3? Several years ago, the EB3 was so far behind the EB2 that several candidates found ways to get ahead by qualifying for and filing petitions for the EB2 classification. This group grew steadily, and as the demand for EB2 grew, the visa numbers began to reflect this shift. So, with hundreds, possibly thousands of individuals looking to “downgrade” we may be back where we started!

  1. What are the risks and How would the USCIS Challenge the EB3 Filing?

Under normal circumstances, the regulations allow for a second Immigrant Petition in a lower category if the Beneficiary is qualified for the benefit even though previously approved under the EB2 category.

However, these are not normal circumstances. The Country has been subject to a life altering event that has caused the unemployment rate to jump to 8.4% after skyrocketing to 14.7% in April. As most practitioners are aware, recent USCIS adjudication of Immigrant Petitions has departed from well established Service policy. It is instead driven by the President’s April 2017 EO: Buy American and Hire American: Putting American Workers First agenda.

RFEs for Immigrant Petitions have taken a rather activist tone. One recent I-140 RFE requested:

The petitioner must establish that a valid employment relationship exists and that the job was open and available to U.S. workers. Please submit independent objective evidence to illustrate this. This evidence should include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Copies of recruitment reports
  • Submit the original newspaper job ad
  • Furnish a statement explaining specifically how the alien applied for and was selected for the position, to include how the employer obtained the alien’s job application (e.g., through a direct phone call by the alien or mailed in response by the alien or through a recruiter) and whether and by whom the alien was interviewed
  • Copies of all recruitment reports (which shall include the numbers of workers interviewed for the position, their academic credentials, and the reason(s) they were not hired for the position)
  • Copies of all resumes and job applications submitted by applicants for this position
  • Copies of all job posting notices; including a statement concerning posting location(s) and the beginning and end dates that the notice was posted
  • Copies of all print advertisements
  • State Workforce Agency (SWA) job orders

This RFE received by our Office in the past month, may be considered by some as just an aberration. However, I believe it portends of more ominous things to come. If the Service chooses to question the underlying recruitment efforts, it may also question whether U.S. workers with lesser qualifications were rejected. In other words, did the employer inflate the requirements of the position to eliminate qualified U.S. workers? This goes to the heart of the validity of the underlying certified PERM application. This could seriously jeopardize subsequent filings by the Employer and critically affect others who are currently waiting in line.

  1. What Happens if Thousands Apply?

We started this discussion with the possibility of thousands applying to gain an advantage and it goes without saying that this could certainly slow things down. More importantly, even without the downgrades, this month’s bulletin will lead to a dramatic increase in USCIS workload. A workload that they are ill equipped to handle given their ever-shrinking budget. This could potentially lead to applications remaining pending for several years before being approved.

  1. What is the worst-case Scenario?

For most employees in H-1B status, an approved EB2 I-140 petition is probably the basis for extension beyond the sixth year. If the Service challenges the downgraded petition and subsequently denies it, the regulations allow for the original petition to stand. However, if the underlying PERM is challenged and revoked, the EB2 approval will also be revoked. Should this happen, the very basis for further H-1B extensions would evaporate.

Therefore, I counsel against rushing to file before knowing how this administration is likely to view these cases and to see if the advancement is likely to be sustained. No matter what your decision is, I highly recommend weighing your risks carefully before seeking to pursue a “downgrading” option.

October 2020 Visa Bulletin

October 2020 Visa Bulletin is now available.

Within an hour of first announcing their decision to use “Final Action Dates” for October, the USCIS has again revised the Visa Bulletin message to read “Filing Action Dates”. This new development would mean several clients would be eligible to file their adjustment applications in October. We will begin contacting you shortly to initiate processing. We will pull all eligible candidates and start work on I-485s in batches using a “first year in, first filing out” process. Thank you for your patience.

Mini Cooper Food Drive for Monroe Pantry

Kidambi & Associates, P.C. is very proud to be a part of a food drive to donate to local Monroe Food Pantry to help with food insecurities.  The Firm came together as a team to collect most needed food items to the MINI Cooper food drive where 9 MINI Coopers collected donations from over 180 Monroe residences who donated a grand total of 3,626 lbs to the Monroe Food Pantry.

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