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Religious worker visa requirements

Immigration Services

The city of Louisville, KY is home to two seminary schools, one Presbyterian and one Baptist. These establishments train and equip pastor and missionaries for religious works around the world. Students come from many nations to attend. Upon completion, many wish to obtain permanent U.S. residency and continue their works within the states. However, there are strict requirements for the necessary visa to accomplish this.

An R1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that will allow a religious worker to reside and work in the U.S. for up to five years. The worker may then apply for a green card if so desired. There are three classifications under which a person may apply for this type of visa. They are Ministers, Professional Workers, and Other Religious Workers. A minister must have evidence from a recognized denomination authorizing the conducting of worship and other duties common to such position. A formal letter from the head of an organization, ordination certificates, and issued licenses are all acceptable forms of evidence. A professional worker is a person who wishes to work in a religious vocation, but whose position requires a U.S. Bachelor's degree or its equivalent. One example of these would be workers in the field of Christian Science. Other religious workers are all other individuals who work in a religious occupation or vocation in any form.

Eligibility requirement for an R1 visa include membership in a religious denomination, non-profit organization that is legally exempt from taxation. The applicant must have been a member of such denomination for the immediate two years prior to application, and will be entering the U.S. solely for the purpose of religious works. If an R1 visa was previously held by an applicant, he or she must have resided outside of the U.S. for at least one year prior to reapplying.

An R2 visa may also be obtained for 21-years of age or younger dependents of religious workers. However, it does not allow work. An experienced immigration attorney can assist in preparing and filing the necessary paperwork for these types of visas.

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