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 [...]

The IOWA Caucus Fiasco May Have Lessons For H-1B CAP Registration

After months of pent up political excitement over the Iowa caucus, Monday night turned out to be anything but. The State’s Democratic leadership blamed the inconclusive results on technological problems. The common refrain among party loyalists, “What went wrong?” According to the Associated Press (AP), “the Iowa Democratic Party says an app created to compile and report caucus results malfunctioned due to a “coding issue,” delaying the count. The party says there are no signs of hacking or other intrusion and that the underlying data is “sound.” The problem was that the app only reported partial data when the precinct chairs sent the information to party headquarters. Again, according to AP, the Iowa Democratic Party didn’t roll the app out to its 1,678 caucus locations until a few hours before the meetings began Monday night. Party officials had said they would not be sending the new mobile app to precinct chairs for downloading until just before the caucuses to narrow the window for any interference, and there wasn’t widespread pretesting by volunteers running the caucus sites.

On December 6th, the USCIS announced that it has completed a successful pilot testing phase and is implementing the registration process in the next H-1B lottery. Employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for the fiscal year 2021 cap, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first electronically register and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee. Unfortunately, this pilot testing did not include any stakeholders. More importantly, questions that legal practitioners have been grappling with are yet to be addressed.

The government’s ongoing efforts to modernize includes the Department of Labor’s (DOL) recently implemented Foreign Labor Application Gateway or Flag System. After its implementation, the DOL began experiencing a series of technical glitches. The DOL has a running FAQ addressing these technical issues that only appear to be growing. In fact, the DOL’s FLAG system was implemented to replace an existing online filing service known as iCERT. Again, neither system worked flawlessly on day one; the ongoing efforts to provide technical support is evidence of the enormous intricacies involved in implementing an online solution.

USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans stated, “by streamlining the H-1B cap selection process with a new electronic registration system, USCIS is creating cost savings and efficiencies for petitioners and the agency, as only those selected will now be required to submit a full petition.” While this sounds laudable, it is not clear if the USCIS is adequately prepared for the challenges posed by the adoption of a new and untested process. If the DOL’s experiment (and the IOWA caucus night) is any indication of how the initial weeks of an untested system may turn out, employers have every right to be worried. Significantly, the final rule implementing this new electronic registration makes multiple references to what could happen if this system is suspended. Specifically:

 USCIS may suspend the H-1B registration requirement, in its discretion, if it determines the registration process is inoperable for any reason.

In other words, USCIS reserves the right to suspend the electronic registration system at any point during the registration process for any reason (read technical glitch). This could be even more of a problem if a determination of “inoperability” requires petitions to be filed on or before April 1st. The USCIS may simply go back to the filing process as it existed last year. In which case, petitioners will be forced to file petitions the “old-fashioned” way, by mail and with the required forms and supporting documentation.

Therefore, in order to be proactive and ensure H-1B CAP petitions are filed on time and with the least amount of disruption, it may be prudent and certainly proactive to commence processing of H-1B petitions as in previous years. I believe it is better to be prepared than find oneself in a situation like the Democrats did in Iowa on Monday night!

PERM based employment case (EB3)

We should expect receive our green cards in next couple of weeks. Thank you very much for all the support and guidance you have provided to us.

— — Ajay, USA, E-mail

President Trump expands travel ban to additional countries

On January 31, 2020 President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation expanding Travel Ban 3.0 to include certain foreign nationals of the following six countries: Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these additions were based on an assessment from the Department of Homeland Security after reviewing updated security assessment criteria first established after the first iteration of the travel ban. It should be noted that restrictions have only been placed on those seeking immigrant visas from the newly added countries. Individuals from these countries seeking non-immigrant visas should not be restricted. The effective date of the expansion is February 21, 2020 at 12:01AM EST. Read the press release.

OFLC Announces Decommissioning Schedule for the iCERT System Labor Certification Registry

The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is making this public service announcement to alert employers and other interested stakeholders that the iCERT System Labor Certification Registry, which provides public access to labor certification decisions in the PERM, LCA, H-2A, and H-2B visa programs, will be decommissioned.

Effective February 28, 2020, members of the public interested in obtaining data on labor certification decisions will still be able to access it within the Disclosure Data section of the OFLC Performance data page. This page provides the latest quarterly and annual disclosure data in easily accessible formats for public review and use. With the decommissioning of the iCERT System Labor Certification Registry, OFLC will be significantly expanding the scope of labor certification decision data available to the public through the Disclosure Data section in February 2020.

DOS Final Rule Amending B Visa Regulations

DOS final rule governing the issuance of B non-immigrant visas for temporary visitors is effective 1/24/2020.
This rule establishes that travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis for the issuance of a B non-immigrant visa. Consequently, a consular officer shall deny a B nonimmigrant visa to an alien who he or she has reason to believe intends to travel for this primary purpose.
Read the final rule