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R Visa (Religious Worker )

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To qualify for R visa to come to the United States to perform religious services, aliens must be a member of the religious denomination abroad that has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately preceding the date of the application for admission to the United States; must have been physically reside outside the United States for a preceding year incase he or she had been in the United States under R-1 visa for complete five years; and alien must be coming to the United States under R visa:
 
  1. To carry on the vocation of a minister of the religious denomination; or
  2. To work for the religious organization in a professional capacity at the request of the organization; or
  3. To work for the organization or a bona fide organization affiliated with the religious denomination in a religious vocation or occupation at the request of the organization. Bona fide organization affiliated with religious denomination must have tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
 
Aliens who are generally performing activities that are traditionally religious functions, or aliens who conduct calling to religious life evidenced by the demonstration of commitment practiced in the religious denomination, such as taking of vows usually qualify to come to the USA to perform their services under R-1 visa. Such aliens include but not limited to clergyman, ministers, fathers, liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters, nuns, monks, religious brothers and sisters may qualify for R visa to enter into the United States.
 
If an alien coming to the United States to work in a professional capacity for bona fide non-profit religious organization or its affiliate, must have at least United States baccalaureate degree or its foreign equivalent.
 
An alien can obtain R visa at the US Consulate abroad or if visa exempt, with the immigration officer at the port of entry without any prior approval from the USCIS. To obtain R visa, alien is required to submit the documentation to the US consular officer at the US consulate abroad, or if visa exempt, to the immigration officer at the United States port of entry establishing to the satisfaction of the consular or immigration officer that the alien will provide services to a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States or to its affiliate and alien meets the criteria set for R visa to perform such services.
 
Incase an alien is in another nonimmigrant status in the United States and would like to change his nonimmigrant status to nonimmigrant religious worker status, he or she is required to submit Form I-129 with the USCIS having jurisdiction requesting change of status and supporting the documents showing that the alien is eligible for R-1 visa to work in the United States.
 
Supporting documentation that is usually required to submit for R visa:
  1. Documents showing that bona fide religious organization or its affiliate is qualified 501(c)(3) tax exempt religious organization in the United States where alien will be performing services;
  2. Letter from an authorized official of the religious organization in the United States explaining the affiliation between the United States based organization and the overseas religious denomination; the length of the alien’s membership in the overseas religious denomination; alien’s qualifications and responsibilities in the overseas religious denomination; if alien is applying for professional capacity, any evidence showing that the alien attained bachelor’s degree in the United States or its foreign equivalent; details regarding remuneration arrangements for the alien’s services in the United States.; and the name and location of the religious congregation or organization in the U.S. for which the applicant would be providing services; and
  3. Any other documents that are appropriate additional evidence regarding the religious organization or its affiliate, alien. Such documents may include but not limited to diplomas, degrees, financial statements, or certificates of ordination.
 
An alien and his family members may be admitted to the United States for initial period of three years. Religious worker is admitted as R-1, and his family members consisting of his spouse and unmarried children below the age of 21 are admitted as R-2. Alien under R visa may be able to seek extension for a maximum period up to five years. An alien who has already spent five years in the United States is required to return back to his or her home country, and will not be able to enter United States in R visa again unless he spends physically outside the country for the preceding year of the application for admission.
 
Family members of R visa, who have been admitted into the United States may pursue studies in the United States as derivatives of R visa holder but may not work in the United States.
 
R visa holder may apply for immigrant visa abroad or apply for adjustment of status in the United States. However, all special immigrant religious workers, other than ministers, who would like to immigrate to the United States as permanent residents must immigrate or enter the United States as Permanent residents, or if they are already in the United States, must adjust their status as permanent residents prior to October 01, 2008. Also, special immigrant religious workers other than ministers are subject to annual cap of 5,000 visas for admission into the United States.
 
To adjust status in the United States, religious organization must file Form I-360 with the USCIS service center having jurisdiction over the alien to allow him to immigrate as special immigrant religious worker. Once the petition is approved, and if visas available for special immigrant religious workers other than ministers, must file Form I-485, application for adjustment of status as permanent resident in the United States. To apply for permanent residency, authorized official of the organization intending to employ alien as religious worker, must provide all necessary documentation stated above for R visa. No prior labor certification is required if religious worker would like to adjust his status in the United States as religious worker.
   
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