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Religious Worker (R Status)

The R-1 classification applies to a religious worker. This is an alien coming to the U.S. temporarily to work: 

  • As a minister of religion,
  • As a professional in a religious vocation or occupation, or
  • For a bona fide nonprofit religious organization at the request of the organization, in a religious occupation which relates to a traditional religious function.

The applicant (religious worker) must have been a member of a religious denomination having a nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least the two years immediately prior to the application date. To be eligible, the U.S. petitioning organization must be a nonprofit religious organization granted (or eligible for) tax exempt status, and must demonstrate that it can and will provide for all of the R-1 beneficiaryís financial and physical needs.

If the alien is outside the U.S., he or she may apply directly to a consulate for an R visa. If visa exempt, the alien may apply at a port of entry.

If the alien is inside the U.S., the religious organization may use the I-129 to petition for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment.

Dependents
Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of R-1 workers are entitled to R-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S., but may not be employed under the R-2 classification. Note: Dependents should file for a change of status or extension of stay on Form I-539 (Application to Extend/change Nonimmigrant Status).

Petition Document Requirements
The I-129 petition may be filed by an authorized official of the U.S. organization and must be filed with:

  • A written statement from an authorized official of the religious organization that will be employing the alien establishing that the alien has been a member of the denomination for the required two years,
    • a description of the proposed position, and that the alien is qualified for the position, 
    • the arrangements, if any, for salary, benefits, and other compensation
    • the name and location of the place the alien will provide the services
    • the organizationís affiliation with the denomination
    • (note: if the alien is to be employed, the INS requires that this letter be from the organizational unit responsible for maintaining I-9ís);      
  • Evidence showing that the religious organization or any affiliate which will engage the alienís services is a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the U.S. and is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
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