Taiwan Pastor Granted Two-Year R-1 Visa With No Salary

Pastor’s R-1 Visa Approved With No Salary

Applicant: American R Church

Beneficiaries: Mr. Chang

Beneficiary Position: Missionary

Time: 5 months


  • The applying church did not have any previous cooperation with Mr. Chang’s church
  • Client had a background that could be construed as a propensity to immigrate
  • The church wasn’t going to pay a salary and beneficiary was required to “self bond”




Founded in 1925, with seven clergy, the American R Church engaged in unpaid preaching and work. The church hired Mr. Chang to come to the United States to work and engaged the legal team at Tsang & Associates to apply for an R-1 religious worker visa for Mr. Chang. To prove this case, the team would need to ensure that there was sufficient evidence to meet the R1 visa requirements. This included demonstrating that Mr. Chang belonged to the religious denomination of the applicant, that the church was a tax-exempt organization, and that this was not an attempt to immigrate to the US rather a short-term stay to serve the purpose of missionary work.

In addition, we needed to demonstrate that Mr. Chang met the following criteria:

(a) had been a member of a denomination for two years prior to applying for a religious worker visa
(b) Planned to serve as a pastor of that denomination or hold religious work in a legal nonprofit religious group (or a tax-exempt affiliate of such a group)
(c) Lived outside the United States in the year preceding the application and have previously served in the denomination for five years.




For this case of R1 visa approval with no salary offered to the applicant, it was crucial that we provide information about the applicant’s ability to “self bond” along with details of the affiliation between Mr. Chang’s denomination and the applicant church in the US. We also needed to address the previous immigration history of the beneficiary to confirm that this was a temporary stay which would result in the beneficiary’s return to their country upon expiration of their R1 visa.

Denominational affiliation between the American and Taiwanese churches

The church in Taiwan to which Mr. Chang belonged had not had any previous cooperation with the church in the U.S., but his church was associated with the mother church to which the U.S. church belonged.

To prove that both churches belong to the same denomination we covered the following points: 

– Members of the denomination profess the same doctrine or beliefs
– A common religious code of conduct
– Common religious services and religious rituals
– A commonplace of religious practice or assembly
– Similar religious denominational symbols

Addressing the Beneficiary’s Propensity to Emigrate

The R-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that does not allow for “Dual Intention” and requires a return to the country of residence upon expiration of the period of stay.

Previously, Mr. Chang had applied for immigration through his family and was waiting for his immigration quota to be scheduled. During this time, Mr. Chang was eager to come to the United States as soon as possible, which was a major difficulty in applying for an R-1 religious worker visa.

We helped Mr. Chang prove that he had the binding ability to return to his home country and that he only wanted to work as a missionary in the U.S. for a short period of time.

Proving the Beneficiary Was Required to “Self-Bond”

Under immigration law, U.S. religious groups must provide materials to demonstrate the ability to pay or compensate religious workers.

The R Church in this case offered Mr. Chang a position as an assistant pastor, but did not intend to pay Mr. Chang a salary or any compensation. In this case, the religious worker needed to be able to self-bond and demonstrate that he or she would not become a public charge to the United States durning their stay. To this end, Mr. Chang’s family contributed a great deal to help with this.

In addition, we demonstrated that churches are eligible to apply for R-1 visas even though they do not pay salaries in the following ways:

– The church has an established temporary, unpaid missionary work program

The R Church cooperated in providing program data that allowed Mr. Chang to meet the criteria for this application.

– The church maintains missionary programs in the United States and abroad

The R Church was a passionate overseas missionary organization and we demonstrated that there was, to some extent, a Chinese regional missionary program within the church.

– Religious workers are accepted by the Church

We certified that Mr. Chang was qualified to work for the church as a missionary.

– Religious duties and responsibilities are associated with traditional unsalaried missionary work

We summarized, through our work with Mr. Chang, a wealth of material that proved the nature of Mr. Chang’s church work met that requirement.




Within five months Mr. Chang’s R-1 visa was approved, granting Mr. Chang a two-year time limit to work in the United States with this nonimmigrant visa.

Previously the Trump administration has tightened immigration policies, especially for those who may pose a public burden to American society. For professional assistance in the case of non-payment of wages by employers and increasingly strict approval, please contact Tsang & Associates if you need help. Our team is happy to assist you with any R-1 visa processing or assistance with any other visa service.

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