On March 8, 2012, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new Policy Memorandum entitled Procedures for Calculating the Maximum Period of Stay for R-1 Nonimmigrants. It updates the USCIS Adjudicators Field Manual to allow R-1 to recapture time spent outside the United States when seeking an extension of their R nonimmigrant status. This new policy gives R-1 and R-2 visa holders the same “recapture” benefits that have been available to H-1B and L-1 visa holder and their families since 2005.
R-1 Religious Workers and their immediate family members (spouses and minor children) are allowed a maximum 5 years of authorized stay. USCIS has determined that the R-1 regulations permit an interpretation that only time actually spent in the United States in R-1 status to be counted towards the maximum 5 years. Thus, a Religious Worker who travels abroad for missionary work, or for any other reason, can now recapture all days spent outside the US. A “day” means a full 24 hour calendar day; partial days spent outside of the United States cannot be recaptured.
The petitioning R-1 religious organization bears the burden of presenting evidence, on behalf of the Religious Worker beneficiary, to document the time spent outside the United States. As stated by USCIS, “The R-1 nonimmigrant is in the best position to organize and submit evidence of his or her departures from and readmissions to the United States. . . . [I]ndependent documentary evidence (e.g., photocopies of passport stamps, I-94 arrival/departure cards, and/or plane tickets) . . . is always required.”