R-1 Visa Extension Approval in Three Weeks

Pastor’s R-1 Visa Extension Approved in Three Weeks

Applicant: American Christian Organization
Beneficiaries: Mr. Zhu
Nationality: Chinese
Beneficiary Position: Evangelist
Applying for: R-1 Religious Worker Visa Extension


  • The organization that applied for an extension for Mr. Zhu is not a church.
  • Mr. Zhu used to be a member of the Chinese house church pastor, not officially recognized.
  • Mr. Zhu had no fixed salary
  • Mr. Zhu has a wife and three children, and his income for a family of five is below the average.




Mr. Zhu had engaged the Tsang & Associates legal team to handle his initial R-1 visa application two years ago and it was successfully approved. Therefore, two years later, when Mr. Zhu was faced with the issue of an R-1 visa extension, he did not hesitate to contact us to help him obtain another successful extension.

It was very important to Mr. Zhu’s family that the extension be approved, otherwise his family of five would face deportation. The last time we worked together, Mr. Zhu had a very good impression of us and he trusted us, so although USCIS had become more strict in all aspects of the R-1 visa application, Mr. Zhu’s family was able to stay in the U.S. with the help of Tsang & Associates professional strength and proficiency in immigration policy.




Mr. Zhu’s case presented certain difficulties and challenges. Because he was involved in the non-profit side of the religious field, Mr. Zhu was not financially well off. In addition, there were not many documents to prove Mr. Zhu’s past missionary service in China. However, Tsang & Associates was able to help Mr. Zhu obtain a visa extension by proving five key factors.


Key Point 1: Proving the applicant institution is a non-profit religious organization


According to USCIS regulations for the R-1 visa, the petitioner for an R-1 visa on behalf of the beneficiary must be a non-profit organization with a religious mission. In most R-1 visa cases the petitioning organization is a formal church. Therefore, one of the difficulties in Mr. Zhu’s extension case was that his petitioning organization was not a church, but a Christian organization with a small number of employees. The organization was mainly responsible for assisting other formal churches in organizing events.

In response to the unique nature of Mr. Zhu’s application, Tsang & Associates decided to focus on establishing that the organization was indeed a 501(c)(3) based nonprofit religious organization that fully met the conditions listed by USCIS.

To demonstrate this, Tsang & Associates first provided a tax-exempt certificate issued to the organization by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which indicated the organization’s tax-exempt status. We then presented the founding charter of the applicant organization since its inception in 2004, indicating that it is an organization focused on serving small and medium-sized churches. However, the small number of staff members of the applicant organization was also a difficulty in this case. To downplay this disadvantage we created extensive documentation focusing on the organization’s nonprofit status and its religious mission. For example, Tsang & Associates carefully consolidated the large events the organization had hosted, including seminars that brought together 37 different organizations and 37 formal churches.

Not only that we also explained in detail the other outreach events that the organization had held, highlighting the wide range of activities that have taken place across the United States. In addition, we presented the chronology of years on the official website to let the visa officer know that this was a long-established religious organization with a good reputation and cultural heritage. Finally, we provided on-site photos of the organization’s events to highlight their authenticity. Thus, even though Mr. Zhu’s application was different from the norm, Tsang & Associates was able to confirm that the organization met the legal requirements despite the differences.


Key Point 2: Proving the religious background of the beneficiary

An extremely important aspect of the R-1 visa application is a detailed account of the beneficiary’s faith upbringing. Tsang & Associates explained the background of Mr. Zhu’s decision to become a Christian. We mentioned that he went to an international seminary to further his education and received a diploma in Bible study.

Tsang & Associates then explained how, after graduating, Mr. Zhu returned to China to establish a house church where he served as the primary pastor for over a decade. In addition, by displaying flyers and invitations from various churches, we emphasized that Mr. Zhu was an internationally acclaimed witness, pastor, and evangelist who was frequently invited to Israel, Hong Kong, and the United States to preach to congregations, lead worship, and discuss the development of Christianity in China. With this, we clearly demonstrated that he has gradually built up a deep-rooted faith and a solid background of faith over the past ten years of hard work in ministry.


Key Point 3: Proving the beneficiary’s qualifications and duties as a pastor

In the third step, Tsang & Associates proceeded to address Mr. Zhu’s qualifications and responsibilities as a pastor, including his long training in a professional seminary according to the standards of the Church, not just as an ordinary clergyman, but as a full-fledged pastor and key staff member of the applicant organization in the United States. In this section, we included Mr. Zhu’s International Seminary graduation certificate and a list of his ministry in mainland China over the past decade or so as evidence to USCIS.

On this basis, Tsang & Associates further confirmed that Mr. Zhu’s job duties were closely tied to his qualifications and experience and that it would be difficult for others to replace him in his position. We presented a list of Mr. Zhu’s daily tasks within the applicant organization, including training pastors in preaching, teaching ministry staff on internal church affairs, organizing discipleship programs and leadership seminars, and more. Through these materials, we pointed out that these tasks could only be carried out by someone of Mr. Zhu’s solid faith and experience.


Key Point 4: Proving that the beneficiary is adequately compensated

Another key to the approval of an R-1 visa is whether the beneficiary will receive sufficient compensation from the petitioning organization or if the beneficiary demonstrates sufficient sponsorship to not be a burden on society. This is a major hurdle for many R-1 beneficiaries, as most pastors do not receive a sufficient salary to support their families.

Mr. Zhu’s petitioning organization offered him a salary of $36,000 a year. The problem, however, is that this compensation is not paid on a fixed monthly basis through a U.S. company. Therefore, Tsang & Associates needed to prove exactly how Mr. Zhu was paid. We did this in two ways. First, we proved that Mr. Zhu received the payments by comparing his W-2 form with his bank statements. Then we confirmed the organization’s ability to pay Mr. Zhu by presenting the bank statements and tax returns from the applicant organization.

To better eliminate the negative effects of low pay, we also provided Mr. Zhu’s bank statement to show that he had enough private savings to meet the basic needs of his entire family.

Although this pastor’s salary was not high, Mr. Zhu’s applicant organization also drafted a brief statement that they would provide room and board for his family, which largely alleviated his financial stress and further proved his family would not become a burden on the state.


Key Point 5: Proving that the beneficiary belongs to the same denomination as the applicant organization

Finally, Tsang & Associates needed to argue the compatibility of beliefs between the beneficiary and the applicant organization. In order to secure an R-1 visa extension approval, the visa beneficiary and the applicant organization must share a common faith, form of worship, and support the same doctrine. In order to comply with federal regulations this compatibility of beliefs must last for at least two years.

Tsang & Associates proceeded to prove that both the house church Mr. Zhu had established in the past and the organization he was currently applying for were affiliated with the Protestant Church of Christ. We submitted statements of faith from both organizations, highlighting and comparing key points so that the immigration officer could see at a glance that Mr. Zhu had indeed complied with the “faith conformity” requirement.





Tsang & Associates submitted the R-1 visa extension petition to USCIS on February 21, 2018, and just three weeks later, on March 15, we received the R-1 visa extension approval notice, and no additional instructions were required. Mr. Zhu was overjoyed to receive the news, as he was already aware of the more stringent visa review process and was concerned that the unique nature of the applicant organization and his below-average income would pose insurmountable obstacles to his case. He was so thankful to Tsang & Associates for all the preparations they had made to get his visa application approved twice in a row.

If you have any questions regarding the R1 Visa Extension approval process or the R-1 visa for nonimmigrant religious workers in general, please feel free to contact us. Tsang & Associates is ready to provide you with efficient, quality legal services in a timely manner.


*To protect customer privacy, customer names are pseudonyms.

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