An amendment has been made in visa requirements by the Department of State saying that, in order to be eligible for the R-1 religious worker visa, applicants should obtain an approved Form I-129 of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from the Department of Homeland Security. This demands the consular officers to ascertain that the visa applicant has obtained an approval for the nonimmigrant religious workers status before the R-1 religious worker visa is issued.
The Form I-129 is filed by the employer for an alien who has come to the US temporarily to perform labor or services, or to get trained, or as a nonimmigrant. The term ‘alien’ shall also include the spouse or child of such alien religious worker who travel alongside with him.
The R-1 religious worker visa is meant for members of a religious group or community having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the USA. It also applies to foreign nationals who come to USA to work as the minister of a religious group. It also covers nonprofit religious organizations that employ alien religious workers such as liturgical workers, religious instructors or cantors, catechists, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters.
In simpler terms, the applicants should be beneficiaries of an approved nonimmigrant religious workers petition from the USCIS for the R-1 religious worker visa to be issued.
The petition requirement has been implemented by USCIS to determine the bona fides of the petitioning religious organization. It also helps determine that a religious worker will be admitted to the country to work for a specific religious organization at the request of that religious organization.
This amendment in visa requirements was made by the Department of State to ensure consistency with the Department of Homeland Security. The rule came into force from October 6, 2009.