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R-1 Temporary Non-Immigrant Religious Workers

If you are a religious worker who seeks to permanently live and work in the United States, you may qualify for the Special Immigrant Religious Worker visa. 

The Special Immigrant Religious Worker visa is an employment-based visa under the fourth category of USCIS employment-based visa classifications (EB-4). Ministers or non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations are eligible for this visa. 

While there is not a limit as to the number of visas that may be issued for a foreign national occupying a “minister” position, there is a limit as to who may apply as a non-minister. Only 5000 of visas may be issued per year for non-minister religious worker positions. 

In order to qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, the foreign national must:

  • Have been a member of a bona-fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of a petition 
  • Seek to work in a full-time salaried or unsalaried (i.e. room and board) compensated position as a religious worker or minister. A position is full-time if the foreign national will work for at least 35 hours per week. 
  • Seek to work for a bona-fide non-profit religious organization in the United States or organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States
  • Have evidence to establish the foreign national is qualified for the position.  This may include documents of the foreign national’s ordination or theology degree. 
  • Prove he or she has worked as a religious worker or minister after the age of 14, either abroad or in the US, continuously for at least the last two years immediately preceding the filing of the application with USCIS.  The work must have been compensated (salaried or unsalaried) If the foreign national took a break during the two-year period, the break will not affect the foreign national’s application so long as (1) the foreign national was employed as a religious worker, (2) the break did not exceed 2 years, and (3) the break was to further religious training or for a sabbatical.

The employer of the foreign national, or the foreign national on his or her own behalf, must file an I-360 Petition with USCIS. 

The following documents must be submitted for the religious organization employing the foreign national:

  • Sufficient proof of tax exempt status 
  • Proof demonstrating how the organization will compensate the foreign national (whether monetary or in-kind). This evidence can include past evidence of compensation for similar position, budgets showing money set aside for salaries, or evidence that room and board will be provided to the foreign national. 

The foreign national’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply as dependent applicants. 

If you believe you qualify for the Special Immigrant Religious Worker Visa and are interested in applying, please contact ILOHB.com

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