U.S. Law Center

Foreign nationals can work for U.S. religious organizations

At the U.S. Law Center, we understand that as a foreign national working in a religious occupation, you may have been given the opportunity to work in the United States temporarily for a church-owned organization here in Riverside or Orange County. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides the R-1 work visa specifically for this purpose and we have helped many people like you.

First, you should know that the place where you plan to work must be affiliated with your religious denomination, and it must be a non-profit organization that has been operational for two years in the United States. Your visa application must be filed through the USCIS by your future employer, and documentation that accompanies the petition must include proof of the following:

  • The organization’s tax-exempt status

  • Your membership status

  • Your salary or other compensation

  • Ordination certification or other qualification documentation (if you plan to work as a minister)

If you plan to support yourself, rather than receive payment from the organization, the organization must provide evidence that there is a program already in place for a temporary missionary, that this program is available through the denomination in the United States and other countries, there is documentation to prove that you have been accepted into the program, and a list of what duties and responsibilities you will have in the position. For your part, you will need to provide documentation that indicates how you will support yourself during your time here.

For more information on the requirements for filing a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, visit our web page on churches using foreign workers.

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