How Do I Get A Religious Worker Visa?

by Yossel Balisok, Esq.

My office gets many calls every week from non-American young women and men in our community asking if there is any way that they can stay in the United States after their student visa expires. As with any government program, I realize that navigating the immigration system is complicated, and often leaves people feeling they do not have any easy options to stay in the country.

For most of you, applying for a Religious Worker Visa (“R-1” or “Nonimmigrant Religious Worker Visa”) not only solves the problem of how to stay in the United States, but can also establish your lawful employment and help you become eligible to get permanent residence (green card) in the future. There are also those of you who are already working for religious organizations and would be eligible for a Religious Worker Visa; Hopefully this article can help you learn how to take advantage of your employment to obtain residence here.

What is a Religious Worker Visa?

The United States created the R-1 Religious Worker Visa to allow non-Americans to temporarily work in the United States for a religious non-profit organization. These visas are a permanent part of U.S. immigration law (as distinguished from other types of religious worker visas, like the EB-4 visa, which have to be renewed by Congress to continue to exist). Thousands of Religious Worker Visas are issued by the United States each year.

How Long Can I Stay if I Get a Religious Worker Visa?

A Religious Worker Visa allows you to stay in the United States for up to 60 months (five years). After 24 months of working for the religious organization, you can begin the process of applying for permanent residence (green card).

How Do I Qualify?

  1. You need to be working for a religious organization.
  2. You need to be working for at least 20 hours per week.

How Do I Apply?

The only thing you need to do is to find a religious organization to employ you and then call us. We will contact your employer and work with them directly to file a petition on your behalf so you do not have to deal with any of the leg-work.

What Does My Employer Need to Know?

  1. If your employer has not done this before, the government will do an on-site inspection of your employer’s work place.
  2. The government will double-check to verify your work hours, compensation and duties.

What Else do I Need to Know?

  1. What if I want to stay for more than 5 years?
  2. Can I leave the country during the time I have a Religious Worker Visa?
  3. Will getting a Religious Worker Visa help me get my green card/permanent residence?
  4. If I get married and/or have kids, can they benefit from my Religious Worker Visa?
  5. What is a B-1 visa, and how is it different from a Religious Worker Visa?
  6. What happens if I leave my job after I get granted a Religious Worker Visa?
  7. What are my options if I work for less than 20 hours a week?
  8. What if my job is partly religious-oriented, but partly not?
  9. Can I work anywhere else in addition to the religious organization?
  10. Do I need to make a minimum income?
  11. Do Chabad houses qualify as religious organizations? What about Jewish schools?
  12. How do I find an employer to hire me?

For answers to these questions, please call 718-928-9607 or visit our Crown Heights office for a FREE consultation.

Yossel Balisok, Esq.
Balisok & Kaufman, PLLC
251 Troy Avenue, between Lincoln Pl. and St. Johns Pl.

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