A religious organization in the United States may sponsor an individual from another country who has been a member of a religious denomination for two years immediately preceding the filing of the application. If the appropriate Petition and supporting documentation are submitted, the individual may qualify for a nonimmigrant R visa. If the individual is the United States, the religious organization must file Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, along with the R Classification Supplement in the United States. If the individual’s spouse and children are accompanying or following to join him or her, then Form I-539 should be filed with the I-129 Petition.

The petition must be supported with documentation establishing that the individual seeks to enter the United States solely for the purpose to:   1) carry on the vocation of a minister of that religious organization; or    2) work in a professional capacity for that religious organization at the request of the organization; or

   3) work at the request of the organization in a religious vocation or occupation for the organization (or its § 501(c)(3) affiliate).

The petitioner (religious organization) must show that it is a bona fide, non-profit, tax exempt religious organization under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This can be shown by submitting copies of the organization’s articles of incorporation, bylaws, financial statements, and letters from the Internal Revenue Service showing that the religious organization is nonprofit and exempt from taxation.

Furthermore, a letter from an authorized official should indicate that the individual has been a member of the religious organization and that the foreign and U.S religious organizations belong to the same religious denomination. The religious organization should provide a sworn statement by an authorized official outlining the hours the individual will work, the duties and responsibilities the individual will perform and the remuneration the individual will receive. Once the R-1 visa is approved, the religious worker, spouse, and children (under 21 years) are granted admission for three years which may be extended for an additional two years.

The R visa allows the individual to apply for permanent residency. If an individual has been in R status for at least two years, a Special Immigrant Petition I-360 may be filed by either the Religious worker or the employer. The Special Immigrant Petition is a step towards obtaining permanent residency. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding Religious Worker visas.