Differentiating the R-1 Visa Options

Are you a religious worker or minister of a religious organization seeking a work visa in the U.S.? R-1 temporary visa and EB-4 visas are both employment-based immigrant statuses that you may be eligible for. Read on to learn more about the R-1 temporary visa, the EB-4 visa, and their differences to see which one might be the option for you! 

Overview of R-1 Temporary Work Visa

R-1 visas are for noncitizens entering the US seeking temporary residence to work at least part-time as a minister or in a religious occupation. Those seeking an R-1 visa are required to be employed and sponsored by a bona fide non-profit religious organization that they have been a member of for at least two years. It is important to note that the R-1 is a temporary visa that does not lead to U.S. citizenship! Beneficiaries of the R-1 visa are granted an initial stay in the U.S. for 30 months and can extend their stay for an additional 30 years for a maximum stay of five years. 

R-1 temporary visas cannot be self-petitioned. Thus the foreign national seeking the visa must be sponsored by their employer who must submit an I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) on their behalf in addition to proof of the following three things: 

  1. Proof of Tax-Exempt Status
  2. Proof of Salaried or Non-Salaried Compensation or Self-Support
  3. Proof of Denominational Membership and Evidence Regarding Prospective Position 

An on-site inspection is also required before or after a final decision is made to grant the visa. R-1 visas also provide the potential for visas of spouses and children of beneficiaries. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. 

Benefits of R-1 Visa

The primary benefits of the R-1 visa are as follows:

  • You can stay in the United States for up to 5 years total; 
  • And you can get visas for your spouse and children; 
  • There are no annual caps on R-1 visas and it is not based on a lottery system; and 
  • There is a pathway to a Green Card. 

Overview of the EB-4 Visa

EB-4 (Employment-Based Fourth preference) visas are intended for individuals who qualify under specific categories which include religious workers, armed forces members, and employees of international organizations. The EB-4 visa leads to a Green Card, permanent residence, and thus the ability to live and work permanently in the United States. 

For those who fall under the category of “Special Immigrant Religious Workers,” similar to the R-1, you must be employed by a: 

  • Non-profit religious organization in the United States;
  • Religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
  • Non-profit organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.

To qualify, you must work full-time (an average of at least 35 hours a week) for one of the three organizations listed above for at least two years. Additionally, you must have worked at one of the three types of organizations described previously, after the age of 14, either abroad or in the U.S., continuously, for at least two years immediately prior to filing the petition. Any breaks in the continuity of work will not affect eligibility so long as the break did not exceed two years and the nature of the break was for further religious training. 

Petitions for an EB-4 must be submitted by your employer. Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) must be filed in addition to proofs that both you and your employers must submit as supporting documents. 

Supporting Documents required for the Religious Organization are as follows: 

  • Proof of Tax-Exempt Status 
  • Proof of Salaried or Non-Salaried Compensation 

Supporting Documents required for the Religious Worker (beneficiary of the EB-4 visa) are as follows: 

  • Proof of Denominational Membership and Evidence Regarding the Prospective Position
  • Proof of Previous Religious Work (Abroad or in the U.S)

Similar to R-1 visas, an on-site inspection before or after the final decision to grant the visa will be conducted. Religious organizations must provide the physical address where the beneficiary will work. EB-4 visas also provide the potential for beneficiaries’ spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 to adjust their status in the United States as well. 

There is a yearly cap of 10,000 EB-4 visas issued per year. 

Benefits of EB-4 Visa

The primary benefits of the EB-4 visa are as follows:

  • You can stay in the United States permanently; 
  • You can get Green Cards for your spouse and children; 
  • You can enjoy all the privileges of permanent resident status including the freedom to travel, live, work, and study in the United States; and
  • There is a pathway to the U.S. Citizenship after five years of residence.

Comparing the R-1 and EB-4 Visas

The main difference between the two visas is the duration of your stay in the United States. An R-1 visa is only temporary whereas the EB-4 visa grants permanent residence in the United States. EB-4 visas are additionally only for those who work full-time as a minister, or religious worker or serve some form of religious vocation. In terms of benefits for family members, R-1 visas will extend temporary visas for you and your family members whereas EB-4 visas grant green cards allowing for access to all the privileges of permanent resident status. In terms of caps or limits, R-1 visas have no annual cap whereas EB-4 visas have a cap of 10,000 visas issued annually. The visa that you may be seeking should be determined based on the duration that you hope to stay and what kinds of benefits you hope to receive through that visa. 

Why Hire an Immigration Attorney?

Both R-1 and EB-4 processes can be very complicated to navigate through on your own. You may also need guidance on which visa would be the best to pursue for your circumstances. An immigration attorney can help both you and your employer navigate through the entire process and make sure that your application is completed completely, on time, and without errors. 

If you would like to learn more about applying for an R-1 visa or EB-4 visa, contact us for an assessment or consultation. 


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