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R Visas

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The R-visa category is for ministers of religion and full-time religious workers. The requirements for the R-visa are detailed and not appropriate for many United States visitors even though their purpose for entering the United States is for a religious activity. Visitors who do not qualify for R-visas may qualify for B-1 or B-2 (business or tourism) visitor visas.

In order to qualify for an R-1 visa, the applicant must: (1) be a member of a religious denomination which has a bona-fide nonprofit, tax-exempt religious organization or affiliate in the United States; (2) have been a member of the denomination for the two years immediately preceding the application for the R-1 visa; and (3) be entering the United States solely to carry on the vocation of minister or to work full-time in a religious occupation for that denomination or an affiliated organization. Moreover, if the applicant for the R-1 visa was previously in the United States under an R-1 visa for five years, the applicant must have resided and been physically present outside the United States for one year immediately prior to the current R-1 visa application.

The R-1 visa applicant’s religious organization must show that it: (1) possesses some form of ecclesiastical government; (2) has a recognized creed and form of worship; (3) has a formal code of doctrine and discipline; and (4) holds religious services and ceremonies in established places of worship attended by congregations or members.

Unlike most other work-related visas, the R-1 visa has no requirement for a petition, labor certification, or previous approval by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application is made directly to the United States consulate having authority over the R-1 visa applicant’s residence abroad.

Although the R-visa can be valid for five years, the initial period of stay allowed by United States Customs and Border Protection at the R-1 visa holder’s initial entry to the United States will usually be for three years. The religious organization in the United States may request an additional stay of up to two years by completing a petition for a nonimmigrant worker with USCIS in the United States. USCIS is currently sending officers to visit the work sites of R-1 workers to prevent fraudulent applications. The maximum continuous stay for an R-1 visa holder is five years. After 5 years, the individual must reside abroad for at least one year before applying for a new R-1 visa. The principal applicant receives an R-1 visa. Spouses and children who are unmarried and under 21 years old of the R-1 visa holder receive R-2 visas as the R-1 visa holder’s dependents. R-2 visa holders cannot work in the United States, but may study.

Contact an Immigration Attorney in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York

To speak to an immigration lawyer about your immigration goals, including obtaining a work visa in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York or anywhere in the United States, we welcome you to contact us online or call 412-291-4400 | 215-880-4977 | 347-839-1700 . Free consultations are available. We represent clients throughout the United States, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, New Jersey, Philadelphia County, Allegheny County, and worldwide in Korea, Africa, India, and Pakistan.

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