Religious Immigrant & Non-Immigrant (R-1) Visa Petitions

R-1 visas are temporary work visas available to people who have been offered religious work in the United States. There is no annual limit on the number of R-1 visas that the U.S. government issues. However, only certain individuals are eligible for R-1 visas, depending on the position that they have been offered in the United States, the number of hours per week that they will be working, and other factors.

An experienced Philadelphia visa petition lawyer from the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. can help you determine whether you are eligible, and if so, help you navigate the complex petition process.

What Is an R-1 Visa? The Basics Explained

R-1 visa holders can legally work in the United States after their employer files a visa petition with immigration authorities on their behalf, and they complete the application process. Once an employer files for its first employee, subsequent R-1 visas can be issued rather quickly for additional employees.

Initially, an R-1 visa allows an employee to stay in the U.S. for a period of 30 months, but it can be renewed multiple times, up to five years total. Visa holders can travel back and forth to and from the United States while holding an R-1 visa.

Immediate family of R-1 visa holders, such as their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, may be granted R-2 visas to stay in the United States, though they are not permitted to work while in the U.S.

If an R-1 visa holder wants to cease employment with the religious institution that petitioned for the visa on their behalf, they must apply for a new visa.

Who Is Eligible, and Who Is Not?

Those who work in a “religious occupation” under U.S. immigration law are eligible for an R-1 visa. These are occupations that relate primarily to a traditional religious function, such as:

  • Clergy
  • Nuns
  • Brothers
  • Sisters
  • Buddhist monks

Other positions that might qualify include:

  • Religious instructors
  • Choir directors
  • Cantors
  • Catechists
  • Those who work in religious hospitals, if their duties further the religion’s creeds and beliefs
  • Religious translators
  • Missionary workers

Those who work for a religious organization solely in an administrative capacity would not qualify for an R-1 visa. Also, people who volunteer for religious organizations are ineligible.

R-1 visa holders must do paid work for at least 20 hours per week.

The Process: Applying for an R-1 Visa

Applying for a visa is a complicated process that can vary, depending on the United States Embassy or Consulate office where you apply. In general, the process begins by filling out an online non-immigrant visa application. Print the application form confirmation page after completing the application. You must also upload a photo that conforms to specific requirements.

Next, you will generally be asked to schedule an interview, although these are usually not required for applicants under the age of 13 or over the age of 80. There are a number of fees that must be paid throughout the process for the application and issuance of the visa. You should consult an experienced Philadelphia visa petition lawyer to help you navigate the process and gather the required documentation.

One mistake in the process could set you back or result in a denial of your petition. Some of the documents that you may need prior to your interview include a passport, fee payment receipt, proof of tax-exempt status of the religious organization sponsor, and receipt number. Digital fingerprint scans are routinely taken during the application process.

After your interview, a consular officer will inform you if further processing will be necessary for your application. They may require additional documentation.

Philadelphia Visa Petition Lawyers at The Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. Assist Religious Workers with Visa Applications

We advise religious organizations looking to sponsor non-U.S. citizen employees, and religious workers seeking temporary work visas. To learn more about obtaining a religious visa, call the experienced Philadelphia visa petition lawyers at the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today.