R-2 Visa for Family of Religious Workers (R-1 Holders)

Family members of R-1 holders are eligible for an R-2 visa. Here's how to apply.

An R-2 visa is a U.S. nonimmigrant (temporary) visa that may be issued to the spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years) of R-1 visa holders. It allows them to accompany or join the R-1 visa holder for the duration of the R-1 visa holder's U.S. stay.

There is no cap on the number of visas issued under the R-2 category each year.

Requirements

To be eligible for an R-2 visa, you must be the spouse or unmarried child (less than 21 years of age) of an R-1 visa holder. To get an R-1 visa, your spouse or parent will need to be a religious worker who has been a member of a legitimate religious denomination for the last two years, and plans to come to the United States to carry on the activities of a religious worker for a U.S. affiliate of that organization.

Application Process

To apply for an R-2 visa, you'll first need to wait while your spouse or parent's employer begins the process by filing a visa petition on USCIS Form I-129.

After that is approved, you'll need to make an appointment at a U.S. consulate in your home country to apply for the visa. Or, if you're already staying (legally) in the U.S., your employer may be able to submit a change of status application at the same time as the visa petition, allowing you to switch to R status without leaving the United States.

Note: Citizens of Canada don't need to apply for this visa at a consulate, but can go straight to the U.S. border with the materials described below.

Fees and Costs

The employer will no doubt pay the USCIS Form I-129 fee. However, you may have to pay the R-2 visa fees, including a processing fee and reciprocal fees, if applicable. Check the "Fees for Visa Services" page of the State Department website for the latest amounts.

Documents Needed

Your application for a R-2 visa must be made on State Department Form DS–160, which you'll fill out online before going to the U.S. consulate. If the application is made at the same time as that of the R-1 visa holder, then you'll need to bring:

  • Your current, valid passport.
  • Proof of relationship to the R-1 visa holder, such as a marriage certificate or a birth certificate (for unmarried children under 21). Bring originals, not just copies.
  • One passport-style photograph of each applicant.
  • Documents showing your intention of returning to your home country when your permitted stay is over, such as copies of a home mortgage or a letter from an employer saying that your job is being held open for you.
  • Receipt for having paid the application fee described above.

If the application is made separately, besides the above-mentioned R-2 documents, it must be accompanied by:

  • Copy of the spouse/parent’s passport having the R-1 visa.
  • Copy of the spouse/parent’s USCIS approval notice for Form I-129.
  • Copies of R-1 documents submitted by the R-1 visa holder.

Benefits and Limitations

Here's what you need to be aware of in order to enjoy and maintain your visa status:

  • You will be admitted and allowed to remain in the United States for as long the primary visa holder maintains lawful status. An R-1 is ordinarily allowed to stay in the U.S. for no more five years in total.
  • R-2 visa holders are not permitted to accept employment in the United States. If you intend to seek employment in the United States, you must apply for a different visa or, after you arrive in the U.S., apply to change your status.
  • You can attend any full- or part-time school or college without having to apply for an F-1 student visa.

R-2 Visa Extension

The initial R-2 visa may be granted for a period of up to three years. Extension of stay may be approved for a period of up to two years. The total period of stay for a person holding an R-2 visa may not exceed five years.

Conversion To Permanent Immigration Possibility

There is no direct path from an R visa to a green card. In fact, one of the conditions of the R visa is that its holders intend to return home when their stay is over. If you become otherwise eligible for a green card,  talk to an immigration lawyer. It may be possible for you to obtain it, but submitting the application may also put your current R-2 visa status at risk.

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