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R Religious Workers

Temporary Religious Worker Visa

Temporary religious worker visa is a nonimmigrant visa (category "R") for foreign nationals entering the United States to work in a religious capacity.

1. Basic application package for a nonimmigrant visa:
•Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application;
•A valid, unexpired passport;
•Passport-type photograph; and
•Application fee.
2. Evidence that the religious organization qualifies as a non-profit organization;
3. A letter from an authorized official of the religious organization.

1) You do not have to maintain foreign residence and show intent to return to your home country while applying for the visa;
2) Your dependents can stay with you as long as you maintain your R1 status. They can also attend school;
3) You can freely travel in and out of the U.S. provided you have a valid visa;
4) You can obtain your visa from an American Consulate abroad with prior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval.

The initial admission period for ministers and religious workers entering the United States in R status is limited to three years. Employers must file an I-129 petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to request an extension. Extensions may be granted for a total stay not to exceed five years. Once you have been in the U.S. for five years on R1 status, you can obtain R1 status again after remaining outside the U.S. for at least one year before reapplying.

Qualifications for R Visa
The R1 visa is available to foreign members of religious denominations, having bona fide non-profit religious organizations in the U.S., for entering the U.S. to carry on the activities of a minister or religious worker as a profession, occupation or vocation. Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join you in the U.S. for the duration of your stay can apply for a dependent R-2 visa.

Basic Requirement
a. Criteria for Determining Employer's Eligibility:
It's a bona fide non-profit religious organization, which is exempt from taxation as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or a religious organization that has never sought such exemptions, but would otherwise be eligible for such status.

b. Criteria for Determining Religious Worker'sEligibility:
1) You must be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S.
2) The religious denomination or the affiliate to which you belong is exempt from taxation, or the religious denomination qualifies for tax-exempt status
3) You have been a member of the organization for at least two years immediately preceding your admission into the U.S.
4) You plan to enter the U.S. solely to carry on the vocation of a minister of that denomination or at the request of the organization, you are entering the U.S. to work in a religious profession, occupation or vocation for the denomination or for an organization affiliated with the denominations
5) You have resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for the immediate prior year if you have previously spent five years in the U.S. in the R1 classification
6) You intend to leave the U.S. on completion of your authorized stay

Four R-Visa Categories
a. Religious Work - Minister
1. Foreign religious worker duly authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious worship and to perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion.
2. Must be a reasonable connection between the activities performed and the religious calling of the minister.
3. Category does not include a lay preacher not authorized to perform such duties.

b. Professional Religious Worker
1. Foreign religious worker performs activities in a religious vocation or occupation that requires a United States baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree.
2. No combination of education and experience, or experience alone, will be allowed to substitute for a baccalaureate degree.

c. Work In A Religious Occupation
1. Foreign religious worker performs an activity that relates to a traditional religious function.
2. Examples of persons in religious occupations include, but are not limited to, liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters.
3. This group does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fund raisers, or persons involved solely in the solicitation of donations.

d. Work In A Religious Vocation.
1. Foreign religious worker called to religious life as demonstrated by a commitment to a religious denomination, such as the taking of vows.
2. Examples of persons with a religious vocation include, but are not limited to, nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters.

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