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Fourth Employment Based Preference And R-Visa
 
Content:
1. Nature
2. Requirement
3. Authorized Period Of Stay
4. Application Procedure

 
1. NATURE

To encourage religious freedom and the practice of religion, the U.S. immigration law provides a very special treatment to religious workers. Under the immigration law, religious workers are provided visa classifications on both temporary and permanent basis. Temporary religious workers can enter the U.S. to engage in religious occupations under R visa. Permanent religious workers can immigrate under the fourth employment-based preference and obtain permanent residency.

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2. REQUIREMENT

A. R-Visa

For temporary employment in the U.S. in religious positions, applicants can apply for R visa if the following requirements are met:

  1. The alien must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of application;
  2. The alien must enter the U.S. to carry on the vocation of minister of religion or work in a capacity in a religious vocation or occupation, or work in a non-professional religious vocation or occupation;
  3. The sponsoring organization must be a bona fide nonprofit religious organization that is exempt from taxation or one that never sought exemption but would be eligible if it had applied.

B. The Fourth Employment-Based Preference

In the event the alien will come to the U.S. to engage in religious work permanently, the applicant can apply to immigrate to the U.S. if the following requirements are met:

  1. The alien must have had at least two years of membership in a religious denomination;
  2. The alien must have been carrying on religious work continuously, either in the U.S. or abroad, for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of application;
  3. The alien must enter the U.S. to carry on the vocation of minister of religion or work in a capacity in a religious vocation or occupation, or work in a non-professional religious vocation or occupation;
  4. The sponsoring organization must be a bona fide nonprofit religious organization that is exempt from taxation or one that never sought exemption but would be eligible if it had applied.

It is noteworthy that religious occupation refer to those relate to a traditional religious function, and individuals qualifying include nuns, monks and religious brothers and sisters. This group does not include lesser-level ancillary support personnel such as janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fundraisers, or persons solely involved in the solicitation of donations.

 
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3. AUTHORIZED PERIOD OF STAY

R-visa applicants are admitted to a stay of three years, with an extension of two years.

Same with other non-immigrant statuses, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can receive R-2 classification and come to the U.S. with the principal alien. However, R-2s are not authorized to work unless they obtain their own employment-based statuses.

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4. APPLICATION PROCEDURE

A. R Visa

If eligible, an alien may file an application for change of status in the U.S. To apply for R status in the U.S., an applicant must first file a Form I-129. However, the alien may also choose to apply for R visa directly at a consulate, or at a port of entry if visa exempt. This is different from other nonimmigrant employment based visas like H-1 and L-1 which require prior INS approval of status for visa application. There are no limits on the number of R visa admissions per year.

B. Fourth Employment-Based Preference

To apply for immigration under the fourth employment-based preference, a Form I-360 together with all supporting document must be filed with INS Service Center having jurisdiction over the location of the petitioning religious organization. There are 10,000 visa available for this category per year. Unlike second and third preferences, fourth preference immigration application does not require a prior approved labor certification. As such, the time required for fourth preference immigration application is much shorter than those of second and third preferences. Similar to other categories of immigration application, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can join the principals.

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