Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence.
Temporary worker (H, L, O, P and Q) visas
Temporary worker (H, L, O, P and Q) visas are for persons who want to enter the United States for employment lasting a fixed period of time, and are not considered permanent or indefinite. For more information, refer to https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/temporary.html
Each of these visas requires the prospective employer to first file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please note, an approved petition is required to apply for a work visa.
Temporary religious worker (R-1) visas
Temporary religious worker (R-1) visas are for persons who want to enter the United States to work temporarily in religious capacities. For more information, refer to https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/religious.html
As a Temporary Religious Worker, You Must:
- be a member of the same religious denomination as the religious organization you plan to work for in the United States for at least two years before that organization files a petition on your behalf;
- be coming to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation in the United States;
- be employed by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States); and
- work at least part time, an average of at least 20 hours per week.
An approved petition is required to apply for a work visa.
For Some Temporary Religious Activity, a Visitor (B) Visa Can Be Used
Certain religious related activities can be undertaken using a visitor (B) visa, such as private worship, prayer, meditation, informal religious study, and attendance at religious services or conferences in the United States. Also, a visitor visa is generally appropriate for ministers of religion seeking to come to the United States temporarily, whose wages and reimbursement will be paid by their own religious group outside the United States, and when coming for:
- An evangelical tour, without taking an appointment with any one church; or
- Exchanging pulpits temporarily with U.S. counterparts; or
- Members performing missionary or voluntary service for a denomination, such as to aid the elderly or needy.
When you have a religious vocation or profession, or are a religious worker coming temporarily to be employed, with your salary paid by a non-profit religious organization in the United States, the visitor visa is not permitted, and you must have a religious worker (R) visa or other work visa.
For more information on temporary worker visas please visit the Department of State website.
- Some temporary worker visa categories require your prospective employer to obtain a labor certification or other approval from the Department of Labor on your behalf before filing the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, with USCIS. Your prospective employer should review the Instructions for Form I-129 on the USCIS website to determine whether labor certification is required for you.
Some temporary worker categories are limited in total number of petitions which can be approved on a yearly basis. Before you can apply for a temporary worker visa at the U.S. Embassy in Burma, a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, must be filed on your behalf by a prospective employer and be approved by USCIS. For more information about the petition process, eligibility requirements by visa category, and numerical limits, if applicable, see Working in the U.S. and Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers on the USCIS website. Once the petition is approved, USCIS will send your prospective employer a Notice of Action, Form I-797.