What is a B-1 Missionary Visa?
If you need to come to the U.S. do some type of missionary work and you are not going to work for a US based religious organization, the B-1 business visitor's Visa is usually the proper visa. This visa permits entry into the U.S. for a period of time necessary to conclude your activity. However, those people granted a B-1 Missionary visa usually receive a one (1) year initial stay, which can be renewed for periods of one (1) year. In general the B nonimmigrant visa category covers visitor visitors for business (B1) and pleasure (B-2). By far the vast majority of visitors who enter the United States each year do so as nonimmigrant visitors in the B visa category. This article however, is intended for those wishing to enter in B-1 missionary status.
A B1 Missionary cannot be involved in employment while in the United States and cannot undertake an academic study program (with a few limited exceptions, discussed later). This article sets out the legitimate activities that can be conducted in the B-1 Missionary visa category and the procedure for obtaining entry to the United States in this classification.
What are the conditions you must abide by if granted a B1 Visa?
Even before a B-1 visa is approved, the consular official has to determine whether or not the activity contemplated by the visitor falls within those allowed under a B-1 category. All consular posts have been provided by The State Department detailed listing approved activities. If there are any questions or concerns, the consular officers must look to the State Department for guidance. There are a few unclear areas in the listing. In most cases the Consular official resolves these concerns without the need to contact the State Department. If the Consulate were to contact the State Department every time there is a question, there would be a tremendous delay in issuing visas. Most times the traveler must arrive at the U.S. on a certain date in order to complete his or her assignment.
The Non-Immigrant Intent of a B-1 Missionary
No Gainful Employment: The most important condition of the B category is that the visitor cannot engage in gainful employment (labor for hire) in the U.S.
Visitors must also establish "Non-Immigrant Intent." An alien is classifiable as a visitor for business if he or she overcomes that presumption of intending immigration, qualifies under the provisions of section 101(a)(15)(B) of the immigration and Nationality Act, and establishes all of the following:
- intends to leave the US at the end of the temporary stay
- has permission to enter a foreign country at the end of the temporary stay
- seeks admission for the sole purpose of engaging in legitimate activities relating
to the religious or non profit organization, evidenced by employment in the US will not be necessary
- has compelling ties to the religious organization
- has a residence abroad that he or she does not intend to abandon
- The visitor will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to religious activities..
What are the Permissible Activities of a B-1 Missionary Visa Holder?
Missionary Work: If you are performing missionary work on behalf of a religious denomination you may be eligible for a B-1 visa, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (WVPP), if otherwise qualified, provided you will receive no salary or remuneration from the United States other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to your stay, and the work which you are to perform in the United States will not involve the selling of articles or the solicitation or acceptance of donations. When applying for a visa, or entry into the United States with a visa or under the VWPP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor explaining in detail the nature of your visit.
Evangelical Tour: If you are to engage in an evangelical tour and do not plan to take an appointment with any one church you may be eligible for a B-1 visa, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, if otherwise qualified, provided you will receive no remuneration from a U.S. source, other than the offerings contributed at each evangelical meeting. When applying for a visa, or entry into the United States with a visa or under the VWPP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor explaining in detail the nature of your visit.
Preaching: If you will be preaching in the United States for a temporary period, or will be exchanging pulpits with your U.S. counterpart you may be eligible for a B-1 visa or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, if otherwise qualified, provided you will continue to be reimbursed by your church in the United Kingdom and you will receive no salary from the host church in the United States. When applying for a visa, or entry into the United States with a visa or under the VWPP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor explaining in detail the nature of your visit.
Voluntary Service Program: Participants in a voluntary service program sponsored by a religious or nonprofit charitable organization which specifically furthers a religious or charitable cause, or benefits the poor, ill or needy, may be eligible for B-1 visas, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, if otherwise qualified, provided all of the following are met:
1. the work to be formed is traditionally done by volunteer charity workers;
2. the individual will receive no salary or remuneration from a U.S. source other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to the stay; and
3. the individual will not engage in the selling of articles and/or solicitation and acceptance of donations.