What Is a Visa Type R?

Are you researching the different types of visas that you may be able to apply for in order to come to the United States? There are a variety of different paths that someone can take in order to get legal authorization to enter the country, remain for a set period of time, and perform specific tasks related to the nature of the visa. In some instances, this means that the bearer may be entitled to work, but in others, they may be only authorized to attend schooling or another specific duty.

Type R visas are awarded to religious workers that come to the United States. This type of visa falls into the category of non-immigrant visas. To qualify for it, you must establish that you meet the requirements that it calls for. The US embassy or consular office that receives your application will inform you if the USCIS has determined you are eligible to receive it.

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As with all United States visa applications, the process is long and complicated. Fortunately, applying for a non-immigrant visa does come with less work than an immigrant visa, since you will not be requesting dispensation for a long-term stay in the country. For this visa, you will need to have the support and authorization of the religious organization that you work for in order to submit a final application.

Realistically, the best way to do this is to work with an immigration and visa lawyer in the United States who has been through this process. The good news is that there are law firms like the Florida Immigration Law Counsel who have years of experience helping all sorts of people apply for visas, asylum, green cards, and many other different tools that people can legally use in order to enter the United States. Be warned: you will quickly find this process to be overwhelming and exhausting when taking it on by yourself.

What Requirements Must You Meet To Qualify For a Type R Visa?

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The following is a list of the basic requirements you must meet in order to qualify for an R visa, but keep in mind that each person is specific and there will likely be additional questions that you will need to answer before determining for certain that you are choosing then right visa. Consult with your immigration lawyer to make sure none of them have changed or been added to at the precise moment when you apply, as American immigration policy is continuously changing:

  • You must be a member of a religious denomination and perform a religious occupation for them
  • You must be coming to the United States to work at least 20 hours a week
  • The religious organization you are a member of must be a bona fide non-profit organization in the United States
  • The religious organization you belong to must be an authorized group tax exemption holder or a non-profit affiliated with a religious denomination
  • You must have been a member of your religious organization for at least two years before filing the petition

How Is a Religious Occupation Defined?

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There are many different capacities in a religious organization that can qualify the participant as having a religious occupation. So many, in fact, that it is far easier for the United States government to list criteria instead of an extensive list of specific roles. The basic factors that must be present for you to initially be considered as having a religious occupation are as follows:

  • Be primarily related to a traditional religious function
  • Be defined as a religious occupation within your religious group
  • Be mostly related to carrying out the religious beliefs of the religious organization you belong to

As described above, the definition of duties doesn’t refer to any administrative positions, maintenance employees, or janitors. It also doesn’t apply to people that engage in fundraising activities or solicit donations, as this is often considered to be a volunteer position and not an occupation. Another group that would not qualify for this type of visa are those who engage in religious studies or training, although in this instance there may be an opportunity for a student visa. For more information check out fl-ilc.com,

What Process Must Be Followed To Receive an R Visa?

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Your employer in the United States must file a petition for a non-immigrant worker through form I-129. The petition must provide the necessary evidence to prove the points outlined above. If the religious organization that is petitioning you believes that one of the above requirements places an undue burden on the organization’s ability to practice their religion, they may seek an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Had An Impact On These Types Of Visas?

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As you may have guessed, the process for applying for and receiving a Type R American Visa has been significantly impacted. As of March 20, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) declared the immediate suspension of all of these petitions because of the limitations imposed by the Coronavirus. Hopefully, this will only be a temporary suspension and they may resume as all government agencies reopen.

The situation is changing quickly in terms of the Coronavirus shutdowns and limitations in the United States, so working closely with an attorney is likely the best way that you can make sure that you are up to date on the newest policies and limitations.

Are You Looking To Apply For a Visa Type R?

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The process required to secure a type R visa for you or a member of your religious organization carries definite difficulties that should not be tackled by someone with no legal experience. Having the support of a knowledgeable immigration lawyer will certainly lift some of the worries off your shoulders and point you towards the path you need to follow to get the R visa you desire.

As with all legal processes in the United States, prepare to deal with a lot of administrative work in order to ensure that your paperwork makes it through the bureaucracy and is returned in a timely manner (hopefully with approval). If the religious organization that you work with does not have a lawyer on retainer in order to help people like yourself with this process, we highly recommend finding someone to take your case today.


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