R-1 Religious Visa
Foreigners going to the United States to work in a religious institution as pastors, ministers, priests, deacons, teachers of religious education, musicians, among other positions related to a religious vocation or professional capacity, may apply for an R-1 religious visa.
Who may apply?
The R-1 visa is a temporary visa that allows the beneficiary a maximum stay in the country of five years. The first R-1 visa is generally granted for a maximum period of 30 months. Through a subsequent extension, the remaining 30 months are granted. In contrast, obtaining permanent residence related to work in the religious realm allows the beneficiary to reside permanently in the United States.
See below the descriptions of some positions for which the R-1 religious visa can be applied:
A minister is a person who is fully authorized by a religious denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by priests, rabbis, and imams, among others.
The term "professional capacity" refers to jobs that require a four-year college degree, that is, a United States baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree.
The term "religious vocation or occupation positions" refers to activities traditionally considered religious.
Possible candidates are liturgical workers, religious education teachers, instructors, missionaries, people who care for others religiously in hospitals, nursing homes, nurseries, orphanages, etc.
Individuals who only participate in soliciting donations do not qualify as religious workers.
A religious vocation involves a formal lifetime commitment through vows, investitures, ceremonies, or similar indicia. The religious denomination must have a class of persons whose lives are dedicated to religious practices, as distinguished from the secular members. Examples of religious vocations include nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters.
How does it work?
To obtain the R-1 visa, the person must have been a member of the institution or religious denomination petitioning on their behalf for at least two years prior to the petition's filing date.
The R-1 visa does not automatically grant permanent residence. Still, if you enter the United States with this visa or change your visa status to the R-1 visa, the basis will be established to later apply for the EB-4 visa, which, in turn, grants permanent residence.
To obtain permanent residence, immigrants must have worked for at least two years (inside or outside the United States) in the same professional role or religious vocation that they will exercise in the country.
Generally, religious workers enter the United States on an R-1 visa, obtained from the U.S. consulate in their home country, and apply for permanent residence two years later.
Any non-profit religious institution can file a petition on behalf of a religious worker. The institution must be a non-profit organization, that is, tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code or certified as tax-exempt.
Upon approval of your R-1 visa, your spouse and children under the age of 21 will receive the R-2 companion visa, which will entitle them to live in the United States. but without permission to work. It is required to compile and submit separate R-2 visa applications for spouse and children.
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