R-1 VISA FOR RELIGIOUS WORKERS
Any bona fine religious organization in the US may file for R-1 visas to employ a temporary religious worker. Some examples of religious workers are: ministers, cantors, liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious broadcasters, religious translators, vocational religious workers (nuns, monks, etc). This classification is divided into three categories of religious workers:
- Ministers of religion
- Professional workers in a religious vocation or occupation
- Other workers in a religious occupation or non-professional vocation
Eligibility requirement for the petitioner:
- It must be a bona fide nonprofit religious organization which has been granted (or is eligible) for tax exempt status (IRS Code section 501 (c)(3));
- It must demonstrate that it can provide for the religious worker's financial and physical needs;
Eligibility requirements for the beneficiary:
- The R-1 beneficiary must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit organization in the US for at least two years immediately preceding the application. The R-1 beneficiary is not required to have engaged in ministerial, vocational or occupational activities during this period.
The R-1 visa petitioner may either file a petition Form I-129 at the INS Service Center with jurisdiction over the place of employment, or apply directly at a US Consulate abroad (or to a US immigration officer at a US port of entry in the case of Canadian citizens). The period of stay is limited to five years.
Permanent Residence for Religious Workers
A religious worker may obtain permanent residence in the US as "Special Immigrant" (fourth preference employment based immigration) by filing an I-360 visa petition. The application can be filed by the alien or any person on behalf of the alien.
To qualify, the alien must:
- Have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit organization in the US for at least two years immediately preceding the application.
- Be coming to the US for the sole purpose of:
a. pursuing his/her vocation as a minister of that religious denomination
b. working for the organization at the organization's request in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the organization, or
c. working for a bona fide non profit religious organization or affiliate thereof (IRS Code 501 (c)(3)).
- Have been working in such vocation, professional work or other work continuously for two years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.