For people from other countries, working in the United States has definite financial advantages. At the same time, money is not always the motivating factor. The opportunity to learn about other cultures and to see things from opposing viewpoints is also a major draw, as is the opportunity to be of service to those sharing your ethnicity who live and work within the U.S.
For religious workers, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers a special type of visa, which can allow clergy members to practice their religious occupation or vocation in this country for a year or more.
At the Southern California Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, our experienced immigration lawyers can help guide you through the process of obtaining a religious worker visa. Through our knowledge and experience in dealing with the USCIS, we can help ensure the necessary documents are submitted, avoiding common mishaps that can result in your application being delayed or denied.
Guidelines for Requesting an R-1 Visa
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the R-1 visa is designed to allow foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. as a minister or in some other religious capacity, provided they work in their occupation for 20 hours or more per week. In addition to having your prospective employer complete Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, the guidelines for obtaining an R-1 visa vary depending on whether or not you will be compensated for the work you are performing:
For Compensated Workers:
If you are receiving pay or room and board in exchange for your services, you will be required to submit the following:
- Verifiable proof of compensation, such as past evidence or compensation for previous positions or your organization’s budget;
- Evidence of any room and board provided;
- IRS documentation, such as W-2s or tax returns.
For Uncompensated Workers:
If you will be self-supporting during your stay in the U.S., you will be required to submit evidence that you are participating in an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work. Documents you may be required to submit include:
- Evidence showing your denomination conducts missionary work both in the U.S. and in other countries;
- Evidence of your acceptance into the program;
- Evidence of the duties and responsibilities you will be charged with;
- Copies of your bank records and proof of your ability to be self-supporting.
If you are applying for an R-1 visa as a minister, you will also need to provide evidence of your ordination or similar documents attesting to your credentials to act in the role of a minister for your religious denomination.
Issues Pertaining To Your R-1 Visa
In addition to applying for and being granted an R-1 visa, other potential issues that could come up include the following:
- Family members: An R-2 visa for the spouses and children of nonimmigrant religious workers may be available. While this visa does not allow your family to work in the United States, they would be able to attend schools and universities in this country.
- Changing your status: While you are required to depart the U.S. prior to your R-1 visa expiration, you may be able to apply for a change of status or an extended stay, as well as a nonimmigrant petition and application for admission while you are here.
- Change of location: If the location of your work changes during the course of your stay, you may be required to file an amended petition. For positions that change locations frequently, this issue can be addressed in your original R-1 application.
Contact Our Los Angeles Immigration Attorneys Today
Whether you are looking to obtain an R-1 visa for the first time, planning on renewing a previous visa, or wanting to change your status as a religious worker, the Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C., are here to help. Our Los Angeles immigration attorneys have the legal knowledge necessary to ensure your application is filed correctly and with the supporting evidence required by the USCIS, ensuring you the best chance of being approved to live and work in the U.S. Issues pertaining to religious worker visas can become complicated for many reasons, and the simplest mistake can result in your application being delayed or denied. When you are dealing with important matters concerning your religious vocation, get the legal representation you need to ensure the best possible results.