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Nonimmigrant Visas

The categories of nonimmigrant visas read like alphabet soup and are notated by a letter-number combination as appearing on the I-94 Arrival-Departure Card.

A Diplomats and foreign government officials
B Visitors for business or pleasure (B-1/B-2 information)
C Transit visa
D Crewmen
E Treaty Traders and Investors (E-1 & E-2 information)
F Students (academic) (F-1 information)
H Temporary Workers
I Representatives of foreign media
J Exchange Program students, scholars, trainees, teachers, research assistants, medical graduates, etc. (J-1 information)
K Fiancees of U.S. citizens
L Intracompany transferees (L-1 information)
M Students (vocational) (M-1 information)
N Parents or children of an alien accorded Special Immigrant status
O Individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, athletics, movies, or television
P Athletes and entertainers - highly qualified individuals / groups as well as accompanying group members
Q Participants in international cultural programs
R Religious workers
S Individuals coming to the U.S. to testify in a criminal proceeding
TN Canadians and Mexicans entering under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

R - Religious workers

R-1 Visas – Religious Workers

The ‘R-1’ visa is a non-immigrant visa, meant for Religious Workers and is issued to persons who wish to work temporarily in the United States, in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation.

Religious vocation means traditional religious functions (e.g. a nun or a monk). It does not matter what particular job he/she is performing in his/her capacity as a nun/monk.
Religious occupation is an activity that relates to traditional religious functions, e.g. cantors (one who leads a service or church choir), liturgical workers (public service workers of the church), translators, religious broadcasters and workers in religious hospitals (excluding nurses and lay workers). This category does not include clerks, fundraisers or maintenance workers.

A person is eligible for the ‘R’ visa if he/she is:

  1. A minister of religion; (deacons, practitioners of Christian Science and officers of the Salvation Army may be deemed ministers)
  2. A professional in a religious vocation or occupation;
  3. A person working 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 must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years preceding the application. The religious denomination must have a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States. 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 beneficiary’s financial and physical needs

Factors that determine a bona fide religious denomination are the presence of some form of ecclesiastical government, a recognized creed and form of worship, a formal code of doctrine and disciplines, religious services and ceremonies, established places of religious worship, religious congregations, etc.

Documents Required

Form I-129 must be filed by an authorized official of the U.S. organization and must be accompanied by:

  1. Evidence to show that the U.S. organization or any affiliate, which will engage the alien’s services, is a bona fide, religious organization, and is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
  2. A letter from an authorized official of the religious organization that will be employing the alien, stating:
    • That the alien has been a member of the denomination for the required two years; (if the membership was maintained in whole or part outside the U.S., then it must be shown that the foreign and U.S. religious organization belong to the same religious denomination)
    • That the alien is qualified for the position, with a brief description of the proposed position;
    • The arrangements for salary, benefits and other monetary compensations, if any;
    • The name and location where the alien will be giving his/her services.

Application for the Visa

If the alien is outside the U.S., he/she may apply directly to a consulate for an R visa.
If the alien is already in the U.S., the religious organization may use Form I-129 to petition for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment.

Duration of Stay

The initial admission is granted for three years and may be extended up to a total period of five years. After a stay of five years, the person must reside outside the U.S. for at least one year to be eligible again. (A brief visit to the U.S. during the one-year period may be acceptable.)

R-2 Visas – Family

Issued to the spouse and dependant children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a beneficiary of an R-1 visa, for the duration of the same term as the principal holder. Dependents may be students in the U.S., but R-2 visa holders are not authorized to work in the United States.

NOTE: Immigration law changes frequently. The resources and information provided on this web site are intended to help you understand basic issues involved in the immigration process, and are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. This information is not offered as, nor does it constitute legal advice or legal opinions. Although we strive to keep this information current, we neither promise nor guarantee that the information is the latest available, or that it applies to your specific situation. You should not act or rely upon the information in these pages without seeking the advice of an attorney.

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