As a religious worker, your career path could take you to different parts of the world while promoting religious activities. Hence, you may need to travel to the United States as a Non-Immigrant worker posted in a specific station. Like other visits, you need to have a valid visa and travel documents to validate your stay and provide legal access to the country's facilities.

Moreover, a visa document serves as proof of following the correct immigration procedures, including applying for travel documents at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Before you begin the visa application process, it is vital to learn of the expectations as a religious worker.

You want to work with an immigration attorney who understands the fundamental processes you must undertake before receiving your R Visa. With the assistance of your immigration lawyer, you can preempt the requested documents to help you conduct a comprehensive research.

The attorney will also be helpful in case of visa revocation, as he/she will take you through the petition processes as well. At California Immigration Attorney, we work hard to provide our clients with fast immigration services throughout California. Over the years, we have helped numerous citizens, and their loved ones visit the United States by making the visa access process faster.

Defining an R Non-Immigrant Visa

Different reasons for visiting the United States require non-immigrants to use unique visas. With the additional visa documents, you receive a distinctive official form that justifies your reason for being in the country.

The R Non-Immigrant visa is available for religious workers looking to work in the country for a specified period. Under the provisions, you will have an opportunity to work for a bonafide religious group that works as a non-profit organization for religious projects.

Under the R non-immigrant category, a religious denomination consists of believers who serve under the same faith doctrine. While the beliefs may vary from one denomination to another, the USCIS office handling your application will mostly be keen to determine that your religious denomination is recognized and registered under the necessary records.

Firstly, you need to understand a minister’s definition under the USCIS requirements to avoid dealing with obstacles related to non-conforming characteristics. The USCIS offices recognize a minister as a person with full authorization to lead or conduct religious activities upon receiving training and approval from the party responsible for conducting ordination.

Moreover, the denomination should fall under an organized government system that includes a recognized worship place for the members. Hence, you will need to have justifications of an existing building like a church where you serve as a religious minister in your country. The proof sources are often from photographs or documents indicating the building location, date of completion, and physical address.

The R non-immigrant visa should also be available to you upon showing that you indulge in worship types common for members of your denominational society.  For example, suppose you are a catholic priest looking to enter the country. In that case, it helps present details that identify you as an ordained official who engages in specific religious practices.

Types of R Visas Available for Non-Immigrants

While the general provisions for R visas make them available for all individuals coming to the United States for religious work, several subcategories of visitors accompanying the religious workers also fall under R visa placements. As a result, the R visa is accessible in two categories, depending on whether you are the primary individual working in the U.S or a dependent of the employee.

The R-1 Visa

If you are the primary visa applicant, you are the recipient aiming to access the United States to work as religious personnel. In this category, you will apply for an R-1 visa that grants you work and stay rights for a specified duration of thirty months.

During the stay period, you can undertake all activities in your work description, as you maintain the limits of your visa provisions. For example, you can only engage in religious activities that do not include the pursuit of profits, meaning that you should not invest in businesses or seek employment elsewhere.

The R-2 Visa

Additionally, if you have a family or dependants who want to accompany you into the United States, they will apply for R-2 Visas. The category provides visas for your spouse and children under twenty-one years.

Furthermore, the children must be unmarried and without children to retain eligibility for an R-2 Visa. Also, R-2 visas are more restrictive on recipients because their main purpose is to give you entry into the U.S. Your dependents cannot work during their stay, so you will need to establish a reliable income source to support all accompanying family members.

Eligibility Criteria for an R Non-Immigrant Visa

Before authorizing you to obtain a visa, the immigration officers handling your application petition use specific eligibility criteria to gauge your qualifications. The characteristics in question are essential, as they distinguish you as a religious worker from other applicants seeking entry into the United States for different purposes.

Hence, it is essential to satisfy a significant percentage of the requirements, as you will increase the chances of a problem-free application procedure.

Your immigration attorney will help you go over the criteria list as a precautionary measure that makes necessary preparations before submitting the application files and heading in for the interview. The critical elements to satisfy when applying for an R Non-Immigrant visa include:

You Should Only Receive Employment in a Religious Capacity

Usually, the R visa is only available for ministers or other religious personnel looking to work in the United estates. Therefore, the limitations prohibit you from applying for any other employment sources that are unrelated to vocational work, including personal development businesses and other forms of employment in the corporate sector.

These restrictions exist to separate applicants seeking business opportunities away from their career paths for better access to resources and authorizations. Hence, if you planned on extending your line of work to other fields unrelated to religious activities, you will have to restrategize and find an alternative, as the restrictive measures do not make allowances for secular types of work.

Additionally, you will have to work for at least twenty hours per week in the religious vocation to fulfill the r visa requirements. The distribution of working hours does not need to be uniform, as long as you and the religious organization can show a detailed schedule that sets the required minimum working hours.

Therefore, with the flexibility, you may make applications as a part-time religious worker to create room for additional provisions in your application. For example, with a part-time working status, your immigration attorney can help you explore the B tourist visa as well, for use to travel around the United States in your free time.

You Should Have Lived Outside the United States for at Least One Year Before Applying

Additionally, the immigration regulations require a visa applicant to have lived outside the United States for at least one year before applying for an R visa. The minimum time requirement is necessary, especially where the applicant is seeking an extension of stay in the U.S after serving for a previous term.

 Also, the time limit is beneficial in ensuring that a non- immigrant does not have overlapping visa allowances under a different type of visa, as it may lead to unlawful access into the country. The result may cause severe repercussions that may apply even when you did not know the existing problem. As a result, you want to uphold the regulations and reach out to your immigration attorney before beginning the application process for further guidance.

You Should Work With a Tax Exempt Religious Organization

Religious organizations in the country often operate under tax-exemption systems because they are non-profit establishments. The unique status should exempt your organization from specific taxation imposed on businesses and other corporate bodies, meaning that you should have sufficient documentation supporting the tax exemption.

 However, some of the religious organizations running in different parts of the country operate under unclear terms that allow them to use religious contributions as profit. You will need to engage a professional to analyze your religious establishment’s fiscal organization from the unclear mode of operations before submitting applications to the immigration office.

You Should be a Member of a Religious with Affiliations in the United States for at Least Two Years

The application window is more limited to new religious members who lack vocational work experience establishment's fiscal organization for two years. As a result, you will have to wait for the time lapse before applying for an R visa to avoid delays and inconveniences.

 One of the primary goals of establishing minimum time criteria for R visa applicants is to ensure that only committed workers with practical experience can access the services. In doing so, there will be fewer fraud cases, where individuals try to pass off as ordained clergy members when applying for access to the U.S.

Attestations from your Employer

Apart from satisfying the eligibility criteria discussed above, the immigration office will require an attestation letter from your employer or the religious organization you intend to work for in the United States. The official documents should be comprehensive enough to satisfy the officer’s inquiries for a smooth transition to the visa application’s next stage. The following are the crucial documents that your employer or religious organization should provide as attachments in your application:

A Brief Letter Confirming your Employment Position

The most important document from your employer is a letter that expressly states the job position you intend to take up after arriving in the United States. Additionally, the letter should include a brief description of the duties/responsibilities you will undertake in your capacity as a minister or other religious worker.

By providing the letter, the immigration office will ascertain that you have one employment source while in the United States that does not involve any secular engagements. It also helps to request the religious organization providing the job to include additional information on the scheduled activities you will run for the avoidance of doubt in the future.

The Physical Address of the Religious Establishment

On top of this, the immigration office will require proof of address from your employer to ascertain that you will be working in a physical establishment. Thus, the employer should issue a detailed document that states the church’s location, cathedral, or any other valid physical premises in the United States, where you will be posted to work.

Suppose details on the establishment’s physical location change before receiving confirmation from the immigration department. In that case, you will need to update the immigration offices. Keeping in touch with the organization that will host you and providing employment is crucial during the visa process. You will have an open line for communication in case of any significant changes.

Information on Your Compensation Plan

The immigration department also concerns itself with your income source to support yourself while in the United States by requesting elaborate statements from your employer. The scrutiny exists to ensure that you have sufficient funds to last throughout your stay in the country with minimum financial struggles.

On the other hand, if your source of funds does not come from the employment you will undertake in the United States, you will need your attorney’s help to compile a standard document that shows proof of income. Naturally, the source of funds should be legal and recognized as a valid monetary source. For example, having financial guarantors is acceptable if they attach letters of approval or confirm their financial responsibilities to support you.

Applying for the R Non-Immigrant Visa

When you finalize all preparation processes, your attorney will advise you to proceed with filing the petition for an R visa. The first process to follow up on is obtaining a form 1-129 that entails a non-immigrant petition. We recommend going over the documents several times to understand the requirements. This way, you will have an easier time filling it out to avoid errors that may cause significant delays.

After obtaining and filling your form 1-129, you can make payments for the visa application fee. The immigration office will provide you with billing details that ensure your money is safely wired to their account.

Upon verifying payment, you will receive notifications to forward your supporting documents to the immigration office. At this point, the immigration lawyer working with you will help you counter check the list of requirements and compare it with the files you have in hard copies. The crucial documents to present in the immigration office are:

  • A valid passport
  • Your non-immigrant visa form
  • Certification of your ordination as a religious member
  • Supporting documents to show your reason for travel into the U.S
  • Passport-size photographs
  • Your visa payment receipt
  • A confirmation letter from the IRS to prove that your religious organization is tax-exempt

Receiving Confirmation for Your R Visa

When you have completed the application process and provided the documents in question, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office will keep in touch by sending several notices.

You must keep an open line for communication, as a failure to respond to the alerts may amount to a cancellation of the entire process. Consequently, you may lose your right to obtain the R visa and miss out on your travel window. The main notifications you can expect from the USCIS office are:

Message to Confirm the Application Petition

After consolidating all your documents and application forms for filing to the USCIS, the relevant officers will go over your applications to confirm that you have met all qualifications. 

The overwhelming number of applications that the office receives in a day may cause delays in the system, meaning that you may not receive your message immediately. Typically, you may have to wait a few days to a week before receiving the confirmation message informing you of your visa application status.

A Summon to a Physical Interview

The confirmation of your application documents paves the way for subsequent processes, including appearing for a physical interview at the American embassy or consulate in your country. Since most applicants who appear for the interview are first-time applicants, the embassy will require you to submit the payment receipt you obtained when making the application.

Hence, we recommend keeping all your documents safely to avoid losing important files that are mandatory for assessment during or before the interview. When the American embassy clears you for the interview, you want to take immediate steps in planning for the meeting.

Usually, the officers presiding over the interview will ask straightforward questions to compare the information on your application forms with your oral submissions. While the process should not be complicated, you want to ensure that your details match for the best chance at obtaining your visa on the first attempt.

Issuing a Notice for the Final Decision

The final notification you will receive from the immigration office will detail the results of your visa application. You may receive positive feedback, meaning that they will receive clearance to obtain their R visas and proceed to make travel arrangements. If you and your attorney met all the requirements during the application process, you should receive news on your Visa approval under this notification to help you make subsequent plans.

On the other hand, you may receive a visa application revocation that denies you access to the official document. If your application is revoked, you want to act promptly and check on the possible reasons for the denial.

However, you want to keep in mind that immigration offices reserve the right to exercise discretion when issuing R visas. Consequently, your immigration attorney should help you go over the documents and establish the problem leading to visa denials.

Appealing After Facing a Visa Revocation

When your visa application process is revoked, you do not have to worry about losing a chance to enter the United States. The USCIS provides applicants an opportunity to file for an appeal petition, especially if you strongly believe that the revocation was unjustified.

Your immigration lawyer plays an essential role in helping you file for the appeal because he/she understands the various procedures involved in the request. Moreover, your lawyer will assist in re-drafting some of the papers that could have played a role in causing a visa revocation.

Hence, it is vital to work closely with your attorney and provide any relevant material that serves your appeal. In doing so, you will increase your chances of success upon re-applying for the R Visa.

Contact an Los Angeles Immigration Attorney Near Me

Upon deciding to apply for a religious worker visa, you need to satisfy the various requirements needed by the USCIS for non-immigrants. The process may be tasking on your part, precisely because of the numerous documents you must present before and during your Visa interview. Additionally, you may need some of the documents signed as an attestation to your information. This means that you will need an attorney’s help to reach out to the relevant parties.

Working with an immigration attorney makes your application process faster. At California Immigration Attorney, you will work with competent immigration attorneys. You can also know the specific data to present and consolidate it for the upcoming meetings with our help. Our wealth of experience in dealing with immigration laws and visa applications enables us to guide you through the entire process. Call us today at 424-789-8809.