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R Visa

Are you a foreign priest, rabbi, minister or employee of a religious organization?
Have you been a member for at least two years of a non-profit religious organization with established facilities in the United States?
Do you wish to perform your duties as a religious worker on a temporary basis in the U.S.?

If your answer to the questions above is “Yes,” then you may be able to enter the U.S. on an R visa! If you are a religious worker and would like to enter the U.S. temporarily to work in a religious capacity, then the R visa may allow you to do so.

WHAT DO I NEED TO SHOW TO QUALIFY AS A RELIGIOUS WORKER?

To be eligible for an R visa, you must be able to demonstrate that:

  1. You are a member of a U.S.-based non-profit organization connected to your religion;
  2. That you have been a member of that organization for at least two years prior to applying for the R visa; and,
  3. That you intend to work as a minister of your religion, or other religious occupation or vocation, in that non-profit religious organization.

WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE REQUIRED FOR AN R VISA?

The documents needed for an R visa are to be provided by both the individual R visa applicant and the religious organization that he or she is associated with.

DOCUMENTS TO BE SHOWN BY THE APPLICANTS RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION:

  • Proof of tax-exempt status. For example, an IRS 501(c)(3) letter;
  • Proof that the R visa applicant will be paid—for instance, papers showing a budget set aside from the religious worker’s salary and/or that room and board to be provided.

DOCUMENTS TO BE SHOWN BY THE RELIGIOUS WORKER:

  • Proof of membership for 2 years in a U.S.-based non-profit religious organization.

If the religious worker is working as a priest, rabbi or minister, provide:

  • A copy of certificate of ordination;
  • Documents showing acceptance of worker’s qualifications to work within that religious denomination;
  • Proof of completion of courses of theological education required or recognized by that religious denomination. This may include transcripts, curriculum, and documentation that establishes that the religious institution is accredited by the denomination.

If the denomination does not require a prescribed theological education, provide:

  • Requirements for ordination to minister in the applicant’s religious denomination;
  • A list of duties performed by ordination;
  • The denomination’s levels of ordination, if any; and,
  • Evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination.

HOW LONG CAN I STAY IN THE U.S. ON AN R VISA?

Usually, an R visa holder can stay in the U.S. for up to thirty (30) months. If an extension is filed, it may be granted for up to another thirty (30) months. The total stay in the U.S. for an R visa holder cannot be more than five (5) years. 107

CAN I BRING MY FAMILY ALONG WITH ME TO THE U.S. ON AN R VISA?

Yes. An R visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under twenty-one (21) years of age may be issued religious worker visas as well. The family members will need to show that they will be supported financially while they are in the U.S. The family members may not work in the U.S., but they may attend school.

CONCLUSION

An R visa allows a foreign religious worker to enter the United States temporarily to perform religious duties. Both the individual religious worker as well as the religious organization that they are associated with must provide documents of proof. Spouses and children of R visa holders may enter the United States along with the R visa holder, but must provide proof that they will be supported financially while in the country. Religious workers generally immigrate to the United States after they enter on an R visa.

Please note: For a religious worker to obtain a green card, the religious organization should demonstrate a continual need for the services of the religious worker. Once a standing need is demonstrated, the sponsoring entity will have to file Form I-360, commonly referred to as the Permanent Residence petition, for the religious worker with supporting documents. The family members of the religious worker, including spouse and children under 21, can qualify for permanent residence with the religious worker. Permanent residence through being a needed religious worker is one of the easiest ways of obtaining a green card in the United States.

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