State Dept. Releases Guidance on B-1 Visas for Missionaries
The Department of State released the following guidance on B-1 visas for missionaries to all diplomatic and consular posts on February 13, 2009:
- VO has recently received inquiries from a religious group claiming that applicants applying for visas to perform missionary work in the United States, who are ineligible for R status because they have not been members of the religious organization for two years, are not alternatively considered eligible for B-1 …. This cable reminds posts that the B-1 note regarding religious activities is still in effect and provides an alternative method for bona fide religious workers to enter the United States.
- In cases where the applicant is a recent member of the religion and cannot demonstrate two-year membership in an affiliated organization, B-1 status remains an option where the applicant meets the requirements in 9 FAM 41.31 note 9.1. This is true even if the applicant who meets the qualifications in the note intends a stay of one year or more in the United States. 9 FAM 41.31 note 3.1 provides that the period of stay in a given case may exceed six months or one year is not in itself controlling, provided the consular officer is satisfied that the intended stay has a time limitation and is not indefinite in nature.
- We would also like to remind posts that many cases involving religious workers generate substantial public or congressional interest. Therefore, it may be prudent to consider requesting an advisory opinion, or sending information cables to the Department in cases where a refusal might generate a response from the sponsoring religious organization.