R Visas Attorney in Florida
R visas are designed for nationals of a foreign country who wish to be employed in the United States in some religious capacity. This can include ministers, those undertaking a vocation with the religious sphere, or other types of religious workers. If you are a holder of an R visa, you must commit to working a minimum of 20 hours per week within the United States. Furthermore, you must present proof that you have been a part of a bona fide and recognized religion for the past two years before you are able to petition for this type of visa. Typically, the R visa is valid for up to five years and it can be extended. Many people with R visas eventually apply for a green card. Petitioning for R visas can be complex and difficult for many. It is recommended that you contact an experienced and reputable immigration attorney before you begin the process. This can potentially save you time, money, and the headache of applying on your own. If you are interested in beginning the process, give the professionals at Florida Immigration Law Counsel a call to schedule your initial consultation today.
Types of R Visas
The most common type of R visa is the R-1. However, there are actually two categories. It is important to note that all petitioning religious organizations must be a recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Listed below are each type as well as who qualifies for them.
- R-1 Visas: This typically represents ministers qho have been officially ordained and/or authorized to perform the duties of a minister. Additionally, it encompasses all other types of religious workers to include teachers, those who work in a liturgical capacity, counselors, missionaries, people who work in a religiously oriented healthcare facility, broadcasters, translators, etc. Though many qualify for an R-1 visa, many are also excluded from applying. Employees who do not qualify include janitors, fundraisers as well as any persons whose occupation focuses mainly on solicitation of funding. Additionally, they must show evidence of their affiliation to their religion abroad for at least the last two years.
- R-2 Visas: R-2 visas are reserved for family members of R-1 holders who will be joining them to the United States. Family members can include a spouse and/or children under the age of 21 who are not married. You cannot apply for an R-2 visa without the R-1 holder being approved first.
It is important to note that each R visa classification allows for a maximum stay of 60 months. They can be extended once for an additional 60 months. After a five-year period of continuous work in the U.S. has passed, the beneficiary will have to leave the U.S. for at least one year before they can become eligible for an R-1 visa again. Additionally, the petitioner must be able to provide evidence that they are eligible to file form I-129 for the beneficiary.
Evidence of Eligibility for an R Visa
If a religious organization within the United States would like to petition for an R-1 temporary nonimmigrant employee to work in the U.S. they must prove that they are eligible. Each petitioner will be tasked with submitting proof they are indeed a 501 (c)(3) organization. This proof can come in the form of a valid and current determination letter from the IRS. This letter will show that the petitioner’s religious organization is tax-exempt and eligible. Furthermore, the religious worker is required to be compensated for their work, such as monetary compensation or room and board.
Petitioning organizations must also show verifiable proof that they have compensated others in the past who served in a similar capacity. If the worker is coming in a missionary capacity, the organization is tasked with proving the legitimacy of their missionary program. If there is no monetary compensation involved, bank records, evidence of donations, etc. must be provided. Additionally, the beneficiary must prove that they have been a part of their religion for more than two years. Proving these eligibility requirements can sometimes be cumbersome and difficult, if you are in need of assistance, contact the immigration attorneys at Florida Immigration Law Counsel today.
How to Apply for an R Visa
Applying for an R-1 visa will require the petitioner (U.S. employer) to file Form I-129. This is a petition for nonimmigrant workers seeking to temporarily enter the United States as a religious worker, minister, or some other type of religious vocation. The R-1 visa will not be issued abroad without the approval of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In addition to the form, each petitioner must provide proof of eligibility. If any of the requirements to obtain an R visa are at odds with religious beliefs and infringe upon their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the petitioning organization can apply for exemptions under specific circumstances. USCIS provided exemptions are offered on a case by case scenario. It is important to provide all required supporting documents and a duplicate Form I-129. If not, you will run the risk of delaying the issuance of the R-1 visa.
Connecting With an Immigration Attorney
As you can see, applying for R visas can be somewhat complex. Forgetting documentation, not offering the correct information and/or not following the instructions in any way can result in an untimely delay and/or denial of the application. It is important for the petitioner and the beneficiary to connect with an experienced and reputable attorney who has already navigated the complexities of applying for R visas. An immigration attorney can be helpful with paperwork, obtaining proof of status, preparing the petitioner for potential inspections and a bevy of other instances relating to R visas. If you would like to learn more about the process of obtaining an R-1 or R-2 visa and/or the fee schedule give our R visa attorneys at Florida Immigration Law Counsel a call for your initial consultation today.