What is an R-1 Visa?
The R-1 visa is a nonimmigrant United States visa. It is designed to help eligible religious workers to work within the United States for a religious organization. The religious organization must be registered as a nonprofit in the US, linked to a US religious denomination or a religious group with a tax exemption. The visa is specifically meant for individuals that work directly in religious work, like preaching. People working within the administrative side of a religious organization cannot apply for an R-1 visa. There is no cap on how many people can obtain an R-1 visa.
If granted an R-1 visa, the recipient may open bank accounts, apply for a driver’s license and study at US institutions. You may also travel outside of the US and this time will not be counted as part of your total visa duration. Additionally, you are able to work in another country without it affecting your R-1 visa.
What are the R-1 Visa Requirements?
To be eligible for this visa you must:
- Have been a member of the religious organization for at least the past two years
- The applicant must be a minister or the religious equivalent
- The applicant must work at least 20 hours a week
- The applicant may not work for in any other positions while in the US
What counts as a Religion?
For this visa, a religion must meet the following criteria:
How can I apply for the R-1 Visa?
This visa application requires that you already have employment with a religious organization in the US. The employer must begin the process by petitioning the USCIS on behalf of the applicant. Once the petition has been processed, the applicant will need to apply. A visa interview will be scheduled following the successful documentation submittal.
What Happens if I am granted an R-1 Visa?
The R-1 visa is valid for 30 months and at the end of that time, you may apply for an extension for another 30 months. The maximum amount of time granted is 60 months, after which you will need to return home. However, you may decide to apply for a Green Card or another visa which will allow you to stay in the US longer.
You may bring your spouse or children with you, however, you will need to apply for an R-2 visa. This application can be completed at the same time as your R-1. You will need to provide a valid marriage certificate and birth certificates for any children. The R-2 visa allows your dependents to stay in the US for the duration of the R-1 visa. Dependents on the R-2 visa may engage in full or part time study but are unable to work.
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