For many people of faith, coming to a new country to work among other faithful and help others can be an exciting and fulfilling calling. However, it is not like the past when missionaries simply climbed on a horse or boarded a boat to begin their adventure. These days national security is an issue, so religious workers coming to the United States must comply with the laws related to temporary workers in their chosen field, including obtaining an R-1 visa.
Nonimmigrant temporary religious workers must already have an employer or prospective employer in the United States who will complete the appropriate immigration form, in this case, Form I-129. Along with the application, the petitioner should include evidence that both the employer and the worker are eligible for an R-1 visa, including:
- The religious organization or its parent organization must have federal tax exemption as a non-profit
- The organization has a valid and current confirmation from the IRS of its nonprofit status
- The organization must have an affiliation with a bona fide religious denomination in the United States.
- The worker seeking the R-1 visa must belong to the religious organization for at least two years before seeking a visa.
These requirements and others often demand a significant amount of documentation, and an agent from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may also conduct an inspection of the physical address where the religious worker will be employed. After receiving an R-1 visa, the worker will still have to go through customs to obtain permission to enter the country. Then, he or she will have 30 months to remain in the country with the potential for another 30 month extension.