If you’re interested in temporarily relocating to the United States to do religious work, there are several issues to keep in mind to help you prepare for your journey. It is important to make sure that you clearly understand the application process for obtaining a visa, which essentially gives you the status you need to live and work in the U.S. for religious reasons.
There are numerous types of visas. As a temporary religious worker, you would be filing for an R-1 visa. However, as is the case with all immigration and non-immigration visas, there are eligibility requirements that you must first satisfy in order to complete the application process.
Have you been part of the denomination for two years?
One of the basic requirements to apply for an R-1 visa has to do with your religious background. Regarding the denomination of the religion you will be representing in the U.S., to be eligible for a religious worker visa, you must be able to prove that you have been part of the same denomination in your country of origin for two or more years.
You must work a certain number of hours per week
You may not qualify for a religious worker visa if you will not be working in your religious field for at least 20 hours per week in the United States. You may work full time, as well, but cannot work less than 20 hours in one week. The organization that employs you in the U.S. must be a non-profit entity.
Other types of religious visas
If you want to travel to the United States for religious reasons that don’t include working in a specific religious field part-time, you may want to learn more about religious activity visitor visas, which may be more relevant to your particular circumstances. If you’re planning on doing missionary work as a volunteer, a visitor visa might fit your needs.
Other religious activities that might fall under the category of a visitor visa include traveling to the U.S. to study religion, taking a private prayer pilgrimage or attending a religious conference. It is important to note that this type of visa is not for anyone who receives a salary from a non-profit religious organization in the United States, in which case you would need a religious worker visa.
Additional steps in the application process
Depending on your age, you might be required to undergo an interview before obtaining a religious worker visa. This interview would take place in a consulate or U.S. embassy in your country of residence. You will also need to have certain documents on hand when you attend an interview, including a passport, a personal photo and the receipt number of your approved petition.
It’s not uncommon to encounter challenges as you navigate the temporary visa system, including but not limited to long wait times, denial of eligibility or various legal issues. It is helpful to stay connected to someone who is well-versed in U.S. immigration laws and visa application regulations who can help you determine a best course of action if a problem arises that is keeping you from accomplishing your goals.