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The "Obvious" Visa Category is Not Always the Correct Visa Category

Earlier this week, Berardi Immigration Law represented a member of a long-established religious order of friars. Our client was seeking entry into the U.S. to complete a religious program of spiritual discernment and volunteer work. The immigration regulations provide for an R-1 nonimmigrant category which allow full-time religious ministers and workers to enter the U.S.
To qualify for R-1 status, the religious worker must:
1. Be a member of a religious denomination having a bona-fide nonprofit, tax-exempted religious organization or affiliation in the U.S.;
2. Have been a member of the denomination for 2 years immediately preceding the application for visa;
3. Enter the U.S. solely to carry on the vocation of a minister or to work full-time in a religious occupation for that denomination or affiliated organization;
4. Have resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for one year immediately prior to the present application for the R-1 visa, if the applicant was previously in the U.S. on the same visa for 5 years.
While the R-1 visa category is the category that most frequently comes to mind for religious workers, the requirements for the R-1 visa are specific and may not be appropriate for many visitors even though their trip to the U.S. is for a religious activity.
As with the case of our client, certain religious work can be undertaken in B-1 status, and if the applicant is a Canadian, he or she can apply directly at the Border. In these cases, the religious work must not involve the selling of articles or the solicitation or acceptance of donations, and no salary or remuneration from U.S. sources (other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to the temporary stay) can be paid.
Our client did not satisfy the specific R-1 criteria. To demonstrate that our client qualified as a B-1 nonimmigrant, we needed to prove that he would be a participant in a voluntary service program to further a religious cause. We prepared a packet detailing his background and basis for admissibility under the specific B-1 regulations. We included supporting documentation to further strengthen the case and provided extensive information on the religious order in Canada and in the U.S.
When the package was complete, Ms. Berardi met our client at the border and submitted the documentation to CBP. As predicted, CBP questioned us with regards to why the client was not applying under R-1 status. We were able to explain to the officer why he qualified for B-1 status under the regulations, and his status was then immediately approved for one year, rather than waiting for a lengthy adjudication through a USCIS Service Center.
If you have been turned away or refused entry at the border, Berardi Immigration Law can help. Call us at 877-721-6100 or click here to send us an email.