What are the requirements for the R-1 religious worker visa?

The R-1 Religious Worker visa status is for foreign nationals who wish to be temporarily employed in the United States at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) for a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.

To qualify, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition. A religious denomination is defined as a religious group that have some form of ecclesiastical government, a common belief or statement of faith, some form of worship, a set of religious guidelines, religious services and ceremonies, established places for worship, religious congregations or comparable evidence of a bona fide religious organization.

Every petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by a prospective or existing U.S. employer through the filing of a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. If the foreign national is visa-exempt (e.g. Canadian), he or she must present the original approval notice of a valid I-129 R petition at a port of entry. There is extensive documentation that must be satisfied by the petitioning organization as well as by the religious worker, the beneficiary of the petition.

The initial admission period for R-1 status may be granted for up to 30 months. An extension of an R-1 status may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The total stay in the United States in an R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months (5 years).

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