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Chapter 3 - Petitioner Requirements

A. Qualifying Organization

The petitioner must attest it is either a bona fide non-profit religious organization or a bona fide organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination and is exempt from taxation. The authorizing official must sign the attestation, certifying that the attestation is true and correct.[1]

Bona Fide Non-profit Religious Organization[2]

A religious organization seeking to qualify as a “bona fide non-profit” religious organization in the United States is required to submit evidence that:

  • The organization is exempt from federal tax requirements as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) of 1986;[3] and

  • The organization has a currently valid determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirming such exemption.[4] 

In some cases, the petitioning entity may fall within the umbrella of a parent organization that has received a group tax exemption from the IRS. In these group tax-exempt cases, the petitioner may use the parent organization’s IRS determination letter, provided it submits that letter and presents evidence that it is covered under the group exemption granted to the parent organization and it is authorized by the parent organization to use its group tax exemption.

Examples on what may be submitted to show that a petitioner may use a group tax exemption letter from a parent organization include, but are not limited to:

  • A letter from the organization holding a group exemption as evidence that the petitioner is covered by such exemption; the letter from the organization named in the exemption must specifically acknowledge that the petitioner falls under the group exemption;

  • Copies of pages from a directory for the parent organization showing the petitioner as a member of the group;[5] 

  • The parent organization’s website that lists the petitioner as a member of the group covered by the exemption; and

  • An IRS letter confirming the petitioner’s coverage under the parent organization exemption.

While the IRS does not require religious organizations to obtain a determination letter, USCIS regulations require petitioners to submit a determination letter with the R-1 petition. USCIS reviews the information contained within the letter to determine if the IRS classified the organization as a religious organization, or as other than a religious organization. Determination letters from the IRS do not expire, but the IRS can revoke them. The IRS offers a web-based Tax Exempt Organization Search tool to verify an organization’s tax-exempt status. An organization may use this tool for its own purposes to obtain a printout showing its currently valid tax-exemption. However, such a printout does not satisfy the requirement for submission of an IRS determination letter.

Bona Fide Organization Affiliated with Religious Denomination[6]

A petitioner qualifies as a bona fide organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination if:

  • The organization is closely associated with the religious denomination;

  • The organization is exempt from federal tax requirements as described in IRC 501(c)(3); and

  • The organization has a currently valid determination letter from the IRS confirming such exemption.[7]

B. Petitioner Attestations[8]

The petitioner must provide information and specifically attest to the following (in addition to attesting that it is a qualifying R-1 employer):

  • The number of members of the petitioning employer’s organization;

  • The number of employees who work at the same location where the religious worker will be employed, and a summary of those employees’ responsibilities;

  • The number of religious workers holding special immigrant religious worker status or R-1 nonimmigrant status currently employed or employed within the past 5 years by the petitioning employer’s organization;

  • The number of special immigrant religious worker and R-1 nonimmigrant petitions and applications filed by or on behalf of any religious workers for employment by the petitioning employer in the past 5 years;

  • The title of the position offered to the beneficiary;

  • Detailed description of the beneficiary’s proposed daily duties;[9]

  • The particulars of the salaried or non-salaried compensation or self-support for the position;[10]

  • A statement that beneficiary will be employed at least 20 hours per week;

  • The specific location(s) of employment;

  • The beneficiary will not be engaged in secular employment;

  • The beneficiary is qualified to perform the duties of the offered position; and

  • The beneficiary has been a member of the denomination for at least 2 years.

C. Verification and Inspections

USCIS may conduct on-site inspections either before or after USCIS makes a final decision on the petition.[11] The purpose of the inspection is to verify the evidence submitted in support of the R-1 petition such as, but may not be limited to, the petitioner’s attestations and qualifications as a religious organization, the location(s) where the beneficiary will work, the organization’s facilities (including places of worship, where applicable), and the nature of the beneficiary’s proposed position.

The petitioner cannot use a foreign address, as the employer must be in the United States in order to petition for religious workers.[12]

1. Pre-approval Inspection[13]

Through the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (ASVVP), USCIS conducts pre-approval compliance reviews on all petitioners for religious workers. USCIS closely monitors the site visit program to ensure that it does not cause undue delays in the adjudication process. Satisfactory completion of the pre-approval compliance review, which can include an on-site inspection, is a condition for approval of the petition. The inspection may include:

  • A tour of the organization’s facilities (including places of worship, if applicable) and, if appropriate, the organization’s headquarters or satellite locations;

  • An interview with the organization’s officials;

  • A review of the organization’s records related to compliance with immigration laws and regulations; and

  • Any other interviews or review of any other records that USCIS considers pertinent to the integrity of the organization.

2. Post-adjudication Inspection

In addition, as part of the compliance review process, USCIS may conduct a post-adjudication inspection of the beneficiary’s work location to verify the beneficiary’s work hours, compensation, and duties or where the petitioner has undergone substantial changes since its last filing.[14] USCIS may also conduct “for cause” post-adjudication inspection in cases where there is suspected fraud.

D. Documentation and Evidence

General Evidence Required

An R-1 petitioner is required to provide the following documentation and evidence to show the petitioner is a qualifying religious organization:[15]

  • A properly completed current version of the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) and R-1 Classification Supplement;

  • A currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is a tax-exempt organization;[16] and

  • Verifiable evidence of how the petitioner intends to compensate the beneficiary, including whether or not the beneficiary will be self-supporting.

Additional Evidence Required – Group Tax-Exempt Religious Organizations

In addition to the general evidence requirements, a group tax-exempt religious organization is required to provide evidence that it is included under the group exemption granted to a parent organization.[17] USCIS also requires evidence that the parent organization has authorized the petitioning entity to use its tax-exempt status.

Furthermore, an organization whose IRS determination letter does not identify its tax exemption as a religious organization must establish its religious nature and purpose. Such evidence may include the entity’s articles of incorporation or bylaws, flyers, articles, brochures, or other literature that describes the religious purpose and nature of the organization.

Additional Evidence Required – Organization Affiliated with Religious Denomination

In addition to the general evidence requirements, a bona fide organization that is affiliated with the religious denomination is also required to submit a Religious Denomination Certification signed by an authorized official of the religious denomination, certifying that the petitioning organization is affiliated with the religious denomination.[18]

If the affiliated organization was granted tax-exempt status under IRC 501(c)(3) under a category other than religious organization, in addition to the general requirements, the petitioner must also provide:

  • Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization, such as a copy of the organizing instrument of the organization that specifies the purposes of the organization; and

  • Organizational literature, such as books, articles, brochures, calendars, flyers, and other literature describing the religious purpose and nature of the activities of the organization.[19]

Table Summarizing Evidentiary Requirements

The table below serves as a quick reference guide for the evidence required depending on the type of R-1 nonimmigrant petitioner.

Summary of Evidence Requirements Relating to the R-1 Nonimmigrant Petition

Type of Petitioner

Required Evidence

Tax-Exempt 501(c)(3) Religious Organization

  • A currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is tax-exempt.

Group Tax-Exempt Religious Organization

  • A currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the group is tax-exempt.

  • Documentation that the organization is covered under the group tax exemption, including, for example, a letter from the parent organization authorizing the petitioner to use its group tax exemption, a directory for that organization listing the petitioner as a member of the group, a membership listing on the parent organization’s website that confirms coverage under its exemption, or a letter from the IRS confirming the coverage.

  • If the submitted IRS determination letter does not identify the organization’s tax exemption as a religious organization, then evidence establishing its religious nature and purpose. Such evidence may include, but is not limited to, the entity’s articles of incorporation or bylaws, flyers, articles, brochures, or other literature that describes the religious purpose and nature of the organization.

Bona Fide Organization Affiliated with Religious Denomination

  • A currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is tax-exempt.

  • If the organization was granted tax-exempt status under IRC 501(c)(3) as something other than a religious organization, then:

    • documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization, including, but not limited to, a copy of the organizing instrument that specifies the purposes of the organization, organizational literature, such as books, articles, brochures, calendars, flyers, and other literature describing the religious purpose and nature of the activities of the organization.

  • A Religious Denomination Certification signed by the religious denominational entity (not the petitioner) that the petitioner is affiliated with, which is part of the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), R-1 Classification Supplement, certifying that the petitioning organization is affiliated with the religious denomination.

E. Employer Obligations[20]

The beneficiary’s employer must notify DHS within 14 calendar days if:

  • The beneficiary is working less than the required number of hours;

  • The beneficiary has been released from the employment; or

  • The beneficiary has otherwise terminated employment before the expiration of a period of authorized R-1 nonimmigrant stay.

F. Compensation Requirement[21]

An R-1 nonimmigrant must receive either salaried or non-salaried compensation, or provide his or her own support as a missionary under an established missionary program. The petitioner is required to state either how it intends to compensate the R-1 nonimmigrant or how the R-1 nonimmigrant will be self-supporting as part of an established missionary program, and to submit the corresponding, verifiable evidence described below.[22] To the extent that the R-1 nonimmigrant will receive funds or other benefits (such as housing) from a third party, this arrangement does not constitute compensation from the petitioner.[23] 

1. Salaried or Non-salaried Compensation

Compensation may be salaried or non-salaried. Salaried means receiving traditional pay such as a paycheck. Non-salaried means any of the following (separately or in combination): receiving support such as room, board, medical care, and transportation instead of or in addition to a paycheck.

The petitioner must submit IRS documentation of compensation, such as IRS Forms W-2 or tax returns, if available. If IRS documentation is unavailable, then the petitioning employer must explain why it is unavailable and submit comparable verifiable documentation.[24]

When the beneficiary will receive salaried or non-salaried compensation, the petitioning employer may also submit verifiable evidence such as:[25]

  • Documentation of past compensation for similar positions;

  • Budgets showing monies set aside for salaries, leases, etc.;

  • Documentary evidence demonstrating that room and board will be provided; or

  • Other evidence acceptable to USCIS.[26]

While the regulation does not require audited financial reports, unaudited budgets or financial statements should be accompanied by supporting evidence that is verifiable. For example, budgets should be generally consistent with past revenue and supported by bank statements showing listed cash balances. When relying on bank statements, they should show an availability of sufficient funds to cover the beneficiary’s salaried compensation over a sufficient period of time.

Further, USCIS does not consider salaried or non-salaried support deriving from a third party as a portion of the beneficiary’s required compensation. The regulation requires that compensation derive from the petitioner.[27] Room and board at a church member’s home, or provided by any other church, is a form of third-party compensation. Unless the church reimburses the other party for this room and board, such arrangements are not a qualifying form of non-salaried compensation. A petitioner may also submit evidence such as proof that it owns the property or a lease showing it pays for the residential space to establish that it is the entity providing non-salaried compensation.

2. Self-Support

Self-support means that the position the beneficiary will hold is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, and part of a broader international program of missionary work the denomination sponsors.[28]

An established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, is defined to be a missionary program in which:

  • Foreign workers, whether compensated or uncompensated, have previously participated in R-1 status;

  • Missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated;

  • The organization provides formal training for missionaries; and

  • Participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination.[29]

If the beneficiary will be self-supporting, the petitioner must provide:

  • Evidence demonstrating that the petitioner has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work;

  • Evidence demonstrating that the denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad;

  • Evidence of the beneficiary’s acceptance into the missionary program;

  • Evidence demonstrating the religious duties and responsibilities associated with the traditionally uncompensated missionary work; and

  • Copies of the beneficiary’s bank records, budgets documenting the sources of self-support (including personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination’s churches) or other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS.[30]

3. Multiple Beneficiaries

A petitioner is required to attest to the number of special immigrant religious worker and R-1 nonimmigrants it currently employs, the number it has employed within the last 5 years, as well as the number of petitions and applications filed by or on behalf of any special immigrant religious worker and R-1 nonimmigrant for employment by the prospective employer within the last 5 years.[31] Where the petitioner has filed for multiple beneficiaries, the petitioner may be required to demonstrate that it has the ability to compensate all of its employees, including R-1 nonimmigrants.

Footnotes


1. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(8)(i) and the R-1 Classification Supplement in Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129).

2. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(3).

3. [^] See IRC’s Exemption Requirements - 501(c)(3) Organizations.

4. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(9). For a religious organization that is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax exemption, a petition should include a currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the group is tax exempt. See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(9)(iii).

5. [^] For instance, if a Roman Catholic Church petitions for a priest, the church may submit the group tax-exempt letter issued to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops along with a copy of the Catholic Directory to satisfy the tax exemption requirement.

6. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(3).

7. [^] See Section D, Documentation and Evidence [2 USCIS-PM O.3(D)] for evidentiary requirements.

8. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(8).

9. [^] This attestation is derived from 8 CFR 214.2(r)(8)(vii) and relates to all R-1 petitions, including beneficiaries coming to perform a religious vocation. See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(8)(vii). Post-adjudication site visits focusing on R-1 beneficiaries cannot verify the beneficiary’s work hours, compensation, and duties consistent with supporting the integrity of the R-1 classification if the petition provides only a vague description of the beneficiary’s proposed duties.

10. [^] See Chapter 4, Beneficiary Requirements [2 USCIS-PM O.4].

11. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(7). See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(16).

12. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(16).

13. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(16). See 73 FR 72276 (PDF) (Nov. 26, 2008).

14. [^4] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(16).

15. [^] See 8 CFR 103.2(a) and 8 CFR 103.2(b)(1).

16. [^] Although an IRS-issued tax-exempt determination letter does not expire, a letter that the IRS has revoked cannot be used to meet the regulatory requirement.

17. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(9)(ii).

18. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(9)(iii)(D).

19. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(9)(iii).

20. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(14).

21. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11).

22. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11).

23. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11).

24. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11)(i).

25. [^] This is not a conclusive list and petitioners may submit other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS. See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11)(i).

26. [^] For instance, petitioners may submit evidence demonstrating that stipends, medical care, or other non-salaried forms of support will be provided. See 73 FR 72276 (PDF), 72281-82 (Nov. 26, 2008).

27. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11).

28. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11)(ii)(A).

29. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11)(ii)(B)(1)-(4).

30. [^] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(11)(ii)(C)(1)-(5).

31. [^1] See 8 CFR 214.2(r)(8)(v)–(vi).

Resources

Legal Authorities

8 CFR 214.2(r) - Religious workers

INA 101(a)(15)(R) - Definition of R nonimmigrant classification

INA 214(c) - Admission of nonimmigrants

Appendices

No appendices available at this time.

Updates

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