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 [...]

Presidential Proclamation Limiting Entry of Certain Nonimmigrants

This evening, President Trump issued a proclamation continuing Proclamation 10014 from April 22nd


At the outset, here is what you need to know:

  1. Most domestic immigration – H-1Bs, L-1s, Os, Ps and all other forms of nonimmigrant visas including,
  2. H-1B CAP filings are unaffected
  3. Change of Employment and Extensions of nonimmigrant status can continue without any disruption
  4. Dependents can continue to extend status
  5. H-4 and L-2 dependents may continue to apply for EADs and Extensions
  6. EAD cards are unaffected and extensions will continue to be processed
  7. Immigrant Petitions (I-130s and I-140s) and Applications to Adjust Status (I-485) may continue to be filed
  8. PERM and other Labor Certification processes are unchanged
  9. Anyone already granted an immigrant visa may travel to the U.S.
  10. Anyone possessing a valid travel document (Advance Parole) can reenter the U.S.

The proclamation has the effect of suspending and limiting the entry of any individual seeking entry pursuant to any of the following nonimmigrant visas

(a) an H-1B or H-2B visa, and any individual accompanying or following to join such individual;

(b) a J visa, to the extent the individual is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and any individual accompanying or following to join such individual; and

(c) an L visa, and any individual accompanying or following to join such individual.

The proclamation shall apply only to any individual who:

(i) is outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;

(ii) does not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and

(iii) does not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 2 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii) any individual who is the spouse or child, as defined in section 101(b)(1) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1)), of a United States citizen;

(iii) any individual seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain; and

(iv) any individual whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

The proclamation is effective immediately, and shall expire on December 31, 2020, and may be continued.

USCIS Issues Updated Policy Guidance and Rescinds Two Policy Memos Regarding the Adjudication of Certain H-1B Petitions

USCIS issued a memo rescinding two policy memoranda regarding the adjudication of certain petitions for H-1B nonimmigrant classification. USCIS is issuing updated policy guidance in their place. The rescinded memos are:

  •    Determining Employer-Employee Relationship for Adjudication of H-1B Petitions, Including Third-Party Site Placements (Reference AFM Chapter 31.3(g)(16) ), HQ 70/6.2.8 (AD 10-24), issued January 8, 2010
  •    Contracts and Itineraries Requirements for H-1B Petitions Involving Third-Party Worksites, PM-602-0157, issued February 22, 2018

The new guidance on the adjudication of H-1B petitions contained in the memo is effective immediately.

**RUMOR REPORT** Presidential Proclamation Barring Entry of Certain Nonimmigrants**RUMOR REPORT**

We have been tracking certain reports that an additional Presidential Proclamation barring entry of certain nonimmigrants appears to be imminent. Here is what we know at this point. This news item is courtesy the American Immigration Lawyers Association

  • Timing
    • The President may be making a decision on the scope of the proclamation as early as today.
    • Unclear how quickly the proclamation would be issued after that, but will likely come the last two weeks in June, and as early as June 15.
    • Could be in effect for as long as 90 -180 days.


  • Possible Substance:
    • Proclamation barring entry to the US for L-1, H-1B, H-2B and J-1 for a temporary period pursuant to INA 212(f) and 215(a).
      • Intent is to impact H-1B cap cases with 10/1/20 start dates.
      • No consensus on what will happen for L-1s.
      • Not clear which of the  J-1 subcategories would be impacted, but likely to impact the SWT program, camp counselor, intern and trainee programs.
    • The proclamation will announce a temporary ban on nonimmigrant worker entries but will NOT announce or describe other substantive policy changes which are expected to follow in regulatory proposals.
    • The proclamation will have a number of exceptions, to be implemented by agency guidance, for example:
      • COVID related exemptions, such as health care workers
      • Food supply related exemptions
      • Competitive recruitment efforts.


  • Subsequent Regulations – Potential rulemakings in the work as early as July on H-1B, OPT, and H-4.  While these should be issued as notice and comment rulemaking, there is certainly a valid concern that they could invoke the good cause exception and try to go to final rulemaking – although that will be very susceptible to challenge.
    • Promulgate regulation changing post-completion OPT and STEM OPT extension to solely a 12-month OPT program by rescinding the STEM OPT regulation finalized March 2016.
    • Issue the H-1B strengthening regulation
      • Focus on employer-employee relations, specialty occupation definition, wage levels.
      • Possible exorbitant fee of $20,000 (or higher) to be added, although not sure what legal authority they would have to do that by regulation
    • Rescind the H-4 Employment Authorization Rule
    • Possible rescission of employment authorization for asylees, refugees, and TPS holders that would face significant legal hurdles.


What can you do: 

Currently, the key focus on influencing the scope of an expanded Proclamation has been high level business executives reaching out to key players to underscore the harm that the expansion would have on business:

  • WH Outreach to the President, Jared Kushner, Larry Edlow,
  • Agency Outreach to the Secretaries of Labor and State. 
  • Congressional Outreach Senate Republicans and House Republican leadership.

These talking points may be helpful:

  • Industry specific unemployment data could be shared if it shows that the unemployment rates during the pandemic have remained low.
  • The need for an EO banning nonimmigrants is inconsistent with the latest jobs report showing a significant improvement in the unemployment numbers and the president’s messaging that recovery has begun and is much more successful than originally anticipated.  If the economy is rebounding, why do we need to cut off supply to critical workforce.
    • Clearly there is no need for the Proclamation to be expanded.

USCIS Extends Flexibility for Responding to Agency Requests

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS is extending the flexibilities it announced on March 30 to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain:

Requests for Evidence;
Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
Notices of Intent to Deny;
Notices of Intent to Revoke;
Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers; and
Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

Notice/Request/Decision Issuance Date:

This flexibility applies to the above documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1 and July 1, 2020, inclusive.

Response Due Date:

USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action. USCIS will consider a Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before it takes any action.

USCIS Offices Preparing to Reopen on June 4

USCIS plans to begin reopening the offices on or after June 4, unless the public closures are extended further.  USCIS staff are continuing to perform duties that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public.  USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance.

Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market

I am writing to provide you with update on what started as a sensational Tweet two days ago – the plan to “suspend immigration” to the United States. We now know what the plan entails, and I am providing you with a short summary offering a bit more clarity and a way to plan for the days ahead.

The President’s Proclamation temporarily suspends certain types of immigration to the United States.

This order goes into effect at 11:59 PM ET on April 23, 2020 and is set to expire 60 days from its effective date and may be continued, as necessary.

Here is what you need to know:

  1. Most domestic immigration – H-1Bs, L-1s, Os, Ps and all other forms of nonimmigrant visas including, H-1B CAP filings are unaffected
  2. Change of Employment and Extensions of nonimmigrant status can continue without any disruption
  3. EAD cards are unaffected and extensions will continue to be processed
  4. Immigrant Petitions (I-130s and I-140s) and Applications to Adjust Status (I-485) may continue to be filed
  5. PERM and other Labor Certification processes are unchanged
  6. Anyone already granted an immigrant visa may travel to the U.S.
  7. Anyone possessing a valid travel document (Advance Parole) can reenter the U.S.

In other words, the Proclamation applies to an individual who is outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation and,

  • Does not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
  • Does not have a valid official travel document (such as a transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document) on the effective date, or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the United States to seek entry or admission.

In addition, the Proclamation specifically exempts:

  1. Green Card holders – Legal permanent residents (LPRs)
  2. Individuals and their spouses or children seeking to enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional to perform work essential to combatting, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak (as determined by the Secretaries of State and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or their respective designees)
  3. Individuals applying for a visa to enter the U.S. pursuant to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program
  4. Spouses of U.S. citizens
  5. Children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21 and prospective adoptees seeking to enter on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
  6. Individuals who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives (as determined by the Secretaries of DHS and State based on the recommendation of the Attorney General (AG), or their respective designees)
  7. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
  8. Individuals and their spouses or children eligible for Special Immigrant Visas as an Afghan or Iraqi translator/interpreter or U.S. Government Employee (SI or SQ classification)
  9. Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by the Secretaries of State and DHS, or their respective designees).

Despite mostly encouraging news for businesses and nonimmigrants currently in the U.S., there is an implied threat lurking in the Proclamation. It requires the Secretaries of Labor and DHS, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to review nonimmigrant programs and recommend to the President other appropriate measures to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure “the prioritization, hiring and employment” of U.S. workers within 30 days of the effective date.

However, for now, businesses can sigh with relief that on top of the COVID 19 emergency, they are not faced with an existential problem created by a suspension of all immigration to the United States.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide you with any new developments as and when they occur.

Be well, stay safe!

Immigration Impact Of President Trump’s Tweet Temporarily Suspending Immigration Into The United States

Last night, President Trump tweeted: “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!’

This tweet has caused great anxiety among immigrants in general and in particular caused clients to reach out to me for clarification. From tweet to text, a lot may change, but this note is intended to help you understand this new development and evaluate it objectively.

Firstly, no Executive Order has been signed as of this writing. In fact, according to news reports, no one has yet seen this Executive Order. NPR reported, “details of the president’s plan, including who it would apply to, how long it would last, and when it would go into effect, were unclear as of Tuesday morning.” The Wall Street Journal reports that while exact details are not immediately clear, migrant farm workers and medics are thought to be exempt. Bloomberg News quoted the National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, who while speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday morning, called the suspension “a temporary issue” and said he didn’t know how long it would last.

Here are a few things to consider:

While several aspects of the President’s plan are as yet unclear, as of March 20ththe Department of State suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. However, exempt were H2A (temporary agricultural workers) and medical personnel (e.g., doctors on J-1), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19. The border is already closed and the administration essentially shut down the nation’s asylum system last month. All routine in person processing at USCIS offices has been suspended until May 3rd.

We are unsure if the suspension is likely to impact pending immigration processes, or future extensions of status for nonimmigrant workers and their dependents in H-1B, L-1, H1B1, O, P, E, etc. We are unclear as to how pending applications for adjustments of status and naturalization are likely to be treated. Significantly, the recently concluded H-1B registration program also provides CAP Gap protection for several students. If H-1B CAP filings are suspended, their status would be in limbo. Suspending existing immigration benefits would cause temporary workers and nonimmigrants to become ineligible to work and lose status, significantly complicating the legal framework that helps administer immigration in the U.S. Moreover and more importantly, putting thousands of nonimmigrants out of work may adversely impact businesses that depend on their skills to remain viable during the COVID emergency. Therefore, I believe exemptions will be drawn up to allow existing processes to continue.

The Constitution gives Congress the final word in immigration matters. However, not even Congress has the power to suspend all immigration. President Trump’s action(s) would be unprecedented and will no doubt, lead to several legal challenges. We will continue following this developing story and bring you the latest as and when it happens. In the meantime, the USCIS is open and so, we will continue filing your cases until instructed otherwise by the Agency.

Thank you for your patience and support during these very troubled times.