New York City is home to more than 3.1 million immigrants, making up over 15% of the cities population. Some of these immigrants are permanent residents, via naturalization or green cards, but many of them live and work and attend school in the United States while in possession of visas. There are many different types of visas, specialized for each demographic of people they apply to.
A student visa allows young foreign nationals into the United States to attend college or university, while work visas allow persons of any age into the United States to join the workforce. A New York City religious visa R-1 is a specialized temporary work visa, specifically for religious employees looking to work for religious organizations in the United States.
A religious worker visa is not a permanent visa. They only allow the holder to live and work in the United States for a maximum period of up to 5 years. The first 30-month period is included in the original visa, but the visa holder must file for an extension to an additional period of 30 months, for a total of a 5-year period. You cannot obtain R-1 visas back to back, you must have been living outside the United States for a total of 1 year before putting in an R-1 visa application.
There is no cap to amounts of R-1 visas approved each year, and as long as you are qualified to apply and can prove it, it is not likely you will be rejected. Using an experienced immigration attorney, such as Jason A. Dennis, to help put together your portfolio of evidence before your hearing date can guarantee a smooth and easy visa approval. You can reach our team at 516-494-7373 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Why Apply for an R-1 Visa?
There are some perks to obtaining an R-1 classification to live in the United States as a religious worker. If you fit the criteria and are approved, you will be allowed to take a driving test and drive in the United States, you will be able to open up bank accounts, and even attend classes and schooling, as long as you continue to obey the requirements for the visa. The visa is also non-exclusive, so you are able to travel in and out of the United States as needed. The family of a person with valid R-1 status can also move to the United States with the visa holder, under the R-2 classification.
If you are planning to come to the United States to do religious work, the best possible outcome in applying for and becoming an R-1 visa holder.
How do You Qualify for an R-1 Visa?
Every type of visa has its own rules and regulations that applicants must fit into, and R-1 religious worker visas are no different.
Visa requirements include:
- must not work any jobs outside of your religious capacity during your visa stay in the united states
- must work at least 20 a week (part-time employment) for their sponsor organization
- must have been part of their religious organization for at least 2 years
- must be a minister or a person who works directly within the religion in a religious occupation
This means that you cannot be a janitor or a secretary, your job at the religious organization must be related specifically to that religion. If you do not have any religious training or any religious duties, your application is not likely to succeed.
Not only does the R-1 visa applicant need to qualify, but the religious organization that is sponsoring them must also meet a small list of qualifications. The organization which will be sponsoring you must be either a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization or have tax-exempt status with the IRS.
Related: U.S. Visa Types and Requirements
How do You Get Started?
You are not able to start the process yourself. The religious organization that wants you to work for them must apply on your behalf through an R-1 petition. Within that petition to start your application process, your potential employer must provide evidence as to how and why both you and the company fit the provided criteria.
This evidence can range from their IRS papers showing they are tax-exempt, proof that you have belonged to the religious organization for more than 2 years, proof that they will be able to pay you or provide for you during your stay in the United States, etc. There is a wide range of what van qualify as evidence, and any combination of well put together evidence can get your application approved.
Once your organization submits their petition, things will begin to move quickly. While most immigrants have to deal with the immigration system for an average of 15 months, R-1 visa applicants normally only have to wait 2-5 months. Because of this quick time frame, hiring a New York immigration lawyer to help you get your case together before the process begins is your best bet.
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A full walkthrough of a basic R-1 and R-2 visa application process can be found here.
Start Your Application Process Today
The R-1 visa program is a great starting point for those wishing to travel to the United States for a missionary program or any religious job duties within their religion. If you think you qualify to gain R-1 status, and there is a religious organization that is willing to sponsor you and give you a job, then there is no reason to wait.
Your first step, after making sure you have the backing of your organization, is to reach out to one of the best immigration law firms in NYC. Because the process moves so quickly, and there is a large amount of needed evidence, hiring someone who is familiar with the immigration process and all aspects of immigration law is paramount to making the process easier for potential R-1 and R-2 visa holders.
The professionals at the Law Offices of Jason A. Dennis are experts on immigration law, and ready to help you. Through an initial confidential consultation, either in person if possible or over the phone, an experienced immigration attorney will help you decide if you are or are not qualified, and if you are qualified, they will walk you through the basic steps of applying to become an R-1 worker.