A foreign national may apply for a religious visa as long as they are a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. The foreign national must be employed as a minister or in another religious vocation or occupation at least twenty (20) hours per week. Support personnel, administrators, clerical workers, maintenance workers and/or janitors do not qualify as a religious worker who has dedicated his/her life to religious practices and functions.
Religious occupations are occupations that primarily relate to a traditional religious function, are recognized as a religious occupation within the denomination, and the function is related to and clearly involved in carrying out the religious creed and beliefs of the denomination.
A U.S. employer must file Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of the prospective religious worker. USCIS must approve the Petition before the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad can issue the visa.
USCIS is permitted to conduct pre-approval inspections at the physical address where individuals congregate to worship. The onsite inspection allows USCIS to verify that the place of worship actually exists.
USCIS may grant R-1 status for an initial period of admission for up to thirty (30) months. Subsequent extensions are permitted for up to an additional thirty (30) months; however, a religious worker’s total period of stay cannot exceed sixty (60) months, or five (5) years. It is important to note that nonimmigrant religious workers must maintain the intent to depart the U.S. when their stay expires. An R-1 religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one (21) may be eligible for R-2 classification; however, they are unable to accept employment.
Give the attorneys at Tanner Law Offices, LLC a call to discuss your religious worker visa options.