The essence of launching the R1 visa is to permit religious workers who desire to work in a religious organization in the U.S but for a maximum period of 5 years.
The major criterium for this visa is that the organization must be registered as either a non-profit organization, a religious organization that is connected to any religious denomination, or a religious organization that has a group tax exemption, all must be located in the United States.
If you can meet all the requirements as a religious worker and finish up the process, you will be permitted to work in your profession in the United States.
In addition to this, this visa is not for all religious workers, it is designed only for those who are connected directly to the religious work. People that cannot apply for the R-1 visa includes administrative and clerical workers or any support personnel, they have to go through applying for other applicable visas.
Once you are issued an R-1 visa, you are permitted to reside and work in the U.S throughout the period specified in your visa. You have the right to obtain a driver’s license, open bank accounts, and also take advantage of studying opportunities either part or full-time study. Moreover, you are free to travel in and out of the United States, and the time spent outside the United States does not count as part of their total visa time.
Invariably, as an R-1 visa holder, you can work part-time in the country in religious positions and still travel to other countries to fulfill your duties as religious personnel, therefore, you don’t need to remain in the country for the whole time that your visa is valid.
Furthermore, there is no limit placed on the number of R-1 visas that can be issued, therefore you will be issued one as long as you meet the requirements.
What are the requirements for the R-1 visa?
The U.S has mapped out a wide range of requirements for people who want to get the R-1 visa as religious workers because we have numerous religions in our world today and truthfully, it is not all of them that are well-known and established in the United States. As a result of this, there are requirements tailor-made both for the person applying for the R-1 visa, and the organization that hires the applicant.
Below are criteria that must be fulfilled by the person who is applying for the R-1 visa:
- You must be a member of the religion for the two previous years
- The religion must have a non-profit organization located in the United States.
- You must secure a job in a non-profit religious organization, or an organization connected with the religion
- You must be a minister or someone working in the religious occupation directly
- You must be willing to work for a minimum of 20 hours weekly (part-time)
- You are not permitted to work in other positions aside from in their religious capacity
We earlier mentioned having and working in a non-profit organization, this organization must be one of the registered organizations in the United States.
- It must be a non-profit religious organization that possesses its own Internal Revenue Service letter of 501(c)(3)
- It must be a non-profit religious organization that is exempted from a group tax
- It must be a non-profit organization that is connected with a religion that is excluded from tax under 501(c)(3) rules or other IRS codes that do not define it as a religious organization
Once both the applicant and the organization can meet the required criteria, the application process can commence. Nevertheless, since w have numerous religions in the world, the U.S institutions in her wisdom have thought it wise to let us know what religion means and how you can be qualified to apply for the R-1 visa.
A religion is best described as a religious denomination formed by a community of people who believe and are guided by the rules of an ecclesiastical government, also, below are the characteristics they have:
- They have similar ways of worship
- They have the same faith and belief system amongst their members
- They carry out rituals, services, and similar ceremonies
- They have a shared code of discipline and doctrine
- They have religious organizations
- They share a place of worship
How can I apply for the R-1 visa?
Both you as the applicant and your employer must follow the steps mentioned below to apply for the R-1 visa. First and foremost, it is not the duty of the applicant to start the application process, instead, this is the responsibility of the employer. He/she can achieve this by petitioning the U.S Citizenships and Immigration Services (USCIS) to permit the employee to work in the U.S
The first step you should take is to file the petition
The first step can be carried out by filling in Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. Also, this will cost you $460 and the fee is to be paid by the employer or organization. Aside from the form, the documents listed below must be included to prove their eligibility and that of the applicant:
- They are expected to present a letter from the IRS proving they are tax-exempt if the organization is defined as a religious one according to the IRS proving this.
- They must present a letter obtained from the IRS proving their status if the organization is group tax-exempt
- Below are documents that must be submitted if the organization has a religious affiliation but is not defined as a religious organization:
- They must present a letter from IRS to prove that they are tax exempt
- They must prove that they have a religious affiliation
- They must prove that they have a religious aim and have a description of their activities
- The organization must submit a letter obtained from another religious organization showing that the petitioning organization has a religious affiliation
- They must present proof that they religious workers are compensated with a salary or in-kind benefits like:
- Previous documents show the remuneration of religious workers in similar positions.
- Present proof that the worker’s accommodation has been taken care of.
- They must present budget documents showing planned expenses as regards salaries or in-kind benefits
In addition to this, the organization submitting the petition must present these documents to confirm the eligibility of the applicant:
- They must submit the tax returns of the applicant U.S or comparable documents if not applicable
- In a situation whereby the employee will not be paid, you must present proof that they have the means to temporarily take care of themselves
- You must submit proof that the applicant is connected to the religion and this has been the case for the last two years
The organization must be patient enough to wait for the application to be processed by USCIS after they have submitted the petition.
Also, they might request an extra proof, the USCIS may require you to pay a visit to the premises to confirm the relationship between the organization and the religion.
Both you and the organization will be sent Form I-797, Notice of Action when the USCIS approves the petition, then the applicant can commence the application process at a U.S Embassy in his/her residence place.
The second step you should take is to fill in Form DS-160
All applicants are expected to fill a particular form containing questions about their background, the reason for their visit, and generally, your personal information, this form is known as Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
You will be issued a confirmation page and code when you complete the form and submit it and this will be required in your documentation file.
The third step you should take is to pay the fees
The fee for the R-1 visa application is $190, and it must be paid before you can continue with your application. Furthermore, there are certain fees you may have to pay known as issuance fees but this is dependent on the relationship between your home country and the U.S thereby making the fee differ from country to country.
Ensure you keep the receipts intact after making your payments and include them in your document file.
The fourth step you should take is to schedule your visa interview
As long as you are between the age of 14 and 79 years old, attending a visa interview with an official at the U.S Embassy is compulsory.
We also advise that you schedule your interview immediately to avoid delays since the U.S Embassy where you are applying from might have a high workload. If you successfully do this, you will receive a visa interview confirmation letter and you have to bring it alongside other documents on the interview date.
The fifth step you should take is to get your document file ready
In your documents file, certain documents must be included because they are what will serve as proof of your intention for going to the United States, these documents are as follow:
- You must present your passport that meets the standard set for the U.S visa passports
- You must present the Form DS-160 confirmation page we mentioned earlier
- You must submit receipts that will serve as proof that you have paid all fees
- You must present the appointment letter for the visa interview
- You must submit Form I-797 proving that your petition has been accepted
- You must proof showing that you are qualified for the R-1 visa:
- Present evidence showing that you have been a member of the religion for the last 2 years
- Present recommendation letters obtained from other religious affiliations you had in the past
- You must present the contract you have with your U.S employer
- You present documents showing your educational qualifications because it will serve as proof that you have the right to work in a religious position like that of a minister
- You must submit proof of financial support or that you will be compensated by the employer
The sixth step you should take is to attend the visa interview
Be at the interview venue as early as possible with the necessary documents, finally, give a detailed explanation of any of the questions that may be thrown at you such as your background, plans, and the reason for visiting the U.S, convince them and exude confidence while at it.
How long does the R-1 visa processing time take?
Well, certain factors may influence the visa processing time such as if they are yet to pay a visit to the premises of the organization, it will take them like 6 months to do that but if they have done that before and approved them, then premium processing is available for an additional fee of $1,225, you can get your visa within the space of 2 weeks with this.
Then without the premium processing, it may take about 2-3 months after the USCIS has approved the petition.
How long is the R-1 visa said to be valid?
Initially, your visa is supposed to be valid for 30 months and you have to reside and work in the U.S during this period as a religious worker. Upon expiration, you are free to apply for an extension and if approved, you will be free to stay in the U.S for extra 30 months in U.S, however, you cannot be given any more extensions beyond 60 months. You are left with two options which are either returning to your home country or seeking permanent residence.
Is it possible for my dependents to accompany me with an R-1 visa?
Those who can be considered as your dependents are your spouse and unmarried children below the age of 21 years old.
They should apply for an R-2 visa either when you are applying for yours or after you have been issued a valid R-1 visa for them to accompany you to the U.S. To prove your relationship with them, you must submit a valid marriage certificate for the spouse and birth certificates for your children. Note that they are not permitted to work but can enroll for part or full-time studies.
Finally, we have exhausted all you need to know about the R-1 visa, and we hope that this article gives you all the necessary information about this visa type.