Globalization is not limited to businesses and commercial enterprises. Religious organizations have increasingly sought to extend their teaching and benevolent work across national borders. U.S. immigration law has accommodated these desires through the R-1 visa program, which provides temporary entry and work authorization to members of bona fide religious organizations operating in the United States. These visas are not issued easily, however, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services demands strict proof that the organization and worker have a legitimate presence and purpose in the United States. Our team at Bretz & Coven, LLP fully understands the intricacies of the R-1 visa program and can assist religious organizations and their ministers, missionaries and other workers in coordinating with the agency and the State Department.
R-1 visas are routinely issued to a variety of religious workers who expect to be employed on at least a part-time basis by a qualifying religious organization with a presence in the United States:
Like many types of visas for temporary workers, R-1 religious worker visas require coordination between the worker beneficiary and the sponsor organization in the United States. Qualifying religious organizations must show that they have tax-exempt status in the United States and that it will either compensate the worker or that the worker is part of an existing uncompensated missionary program. The workers must show that they have been part of the sponsor organization for at least two years.
R-1 visas are issued for an initial period of only 30 months and can only be renewed once. The same is true for R-2 visas available to the spouses and children of R-1 visa holders. R-1 and R-2 visa holders can, however; potentially qualify for an adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident under the EB-4 green card preference category. Religious workers applying for an adjustment of status must meet all other criteria for permanent residence and usually must be sponsored by their U.S. employer. Moreover, because R-1 and R-2 visa holders fall into the fourth of five preference categories, the wait time can be substantial.
We at Bretz & Coven, LLP have assisted all manner of religious organizations in NYC and throughout the rest of the country in using foreign members to accomplish their ministry goals in the United States. Contact our experienced immigration lawyers in New York City today at 212-267-2555 or online for creative solutions to your complex immigration problems. For an office appointment in Metro Park, New Jersey, call 1 (732) 313-0075.