R-1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

R-1 (Religious Worker) Visa

What is the R-1 visa?

The R-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for foreign nationals who are coming to the United States temporarily to be employed, at least part-time, as ministers or in another religious occupation.

What are the requirements for an R-1 visa?

  • You must be a religious worker whose life is dedicated to religious practices and functions.
  • You must have belonged to a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years immediately before you filed your petition.
  • Your employer must be a nonprofit religious organization in the U.S., a religious organization authorized by a group tax-exemption holder to use its tax exemption or a nonprofit religious organization affiliated with a religious denomination in the U.S.
  • You must be working at least 20 hours per week.

What strategic considerations should I keep in mind?

  • “Religious occupations” are those which relate primarily to religious functions. Thus, this category does not include administrative or support positions within a church, such as janitors and fund-raisers.
  • “Ministers” are people authorized and trained by their religious denomination to conduct religious worship and other duties usually performed by clergy.
  • “Religious denomination” applies to a community of believers governed under a common type of ecclesiastical government.
  • As the petitioning religious employer, you must submit evidence of your tax-exempt status.
  • Religious workers must be compensated, either with or without a salary. Thus, the petitioning religious employer must show how it will support the religious worker in the U.S. USCIS will consider evidence of self-support only for certain nonimmigrant missionaries.
  • USCIS may grant R-1 status for an initial period of up to 30 months. Extensions may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The religious worker’s total period of stay in the United States cannot exceed five years.
  • An R-1 religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to accept employment based on this visa classification.

The religious worker R-1 visa is for persons seeking to enter the United States to be employed by a non-profit religious organization as a religious worker or in a religious vocation or occupation.

How do I qualify for this visa?

An R-1 qualified foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years preceding the filing of the R-1 petition. The qualifying petitioner must also prove that it is tax-exempt.

How long can I stay in the US on this visa?

The R-1 visa holder is granted status for up to 30 months initially. The extension may be granted for an additional 30 months and the total stay cannot exceed 60 months.

Can I apply for a Green Card while on this visa?

R-1 visa holders may be eligible for an employment-based, fourth preference visa.