green card


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. I am only sharing our experience for educational and entertainment purposes. Please do your due diligence when applying for any immigration process.

If you’ve had your R1 Visa and been working for two years as a religious worker in the USA, then you are eligible to apply for a green card. After all, the R1 visa has dual intent, meaning that while it is a nonimmigrant visa, there is a path toward becoming a permanent resident in the US. Here are several tips for how you can move from the R1 visa to become a permanent resident.

For this article, the terms “green card,” “immigrant visa,” “permanent residence,” and “EB-4 visa” are used interchangeably to refer to the green card for special immigrant religious workers.

You’re eligible to apply for a green card after two (2) years of having the R1 visa.

I officially started my religious worker job in the US in May 2015. I moved to the US with my family. My wife and our son were given the R2 visa. Technically, we were eligible to apply for a green card in May 2017. But because of work responsibilities and some confusion on my part, we ended up applying in 2018. 

Renew your R1 visa, then apply for a green card.

The R1 visa is good for a maximum of five (5) years. Most of the time, though, the first R1 visa is good for 2.5 years or 30 months. We decided to renew our R1 visa because of two main reasons:

  • There are significant delays in processing Green Card applications. 
  • We did not want to be out of status in case our application takes longer than expected. 

We renewed our R1 visa, got extended for another 2.5 years. Then we started the Green Card application process.

In March 2015, I received my US R-1 Visa, which allowed me to accept a job offer in the Philippines. If you’re not familiar, R-1 is the visa granted for religious workers to work legally in the USA. Although I am not a pastor, I moved to the USA to take on a job with a religious organization, which is tre church I belong to–The United Methodist Church.

Based on conversations with our organization’s lawyer, and based on my reading of the requirements, I need to wait until I have completed two (2) years of service with my current organization before I could apply for a Green Card.

My official first day of work was May 1, 2015. That meant that the earliest time I could apply for a Green Card is May 1, 2017.

Just to make sure that I would not be a out-of-status in the US, my employer applied for an extension of my R-1 visa. The initial R-1 visa is good for two and a half years, renewable for another 2.5 years for a total of 5 years.

We got the extension but I didn’t apply right away. I got occupied by my responsibilities at work, which is why it took me another year to apply.

Here’s our Green Card timeline