R-1 Visa for Religious Workers

An R-1 visa for religious workers is a temporary visa offered to foreign religious occupants looking to be employed in the United States. The R-1 Visa qualifies ministers, priests, rabbis, ordained deacons, salaried Buddhist monks, commissioned officers of the Salvation Army, and practitioners and nurses of the Christian Science Church.

An R-1 is a foreign national must be employed as a minister or in another religious occupation at least 20 hours per week by:

  • A non-profit religious organization in the United States.
  • A religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption.
  • A non-profit religious organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.

The religious worker must intend to work as one of the following:

  • Liturgical Worker
  • Religious Instructor
  • Religious Counselor
  • Cantor
  • Catechist
  • Religious Hospital Worker
  • Religious Health Care Facilitator
  • Missionary
  • Religious Translator
  • Religious Broadcaster

Duration of Stay on R-1 Visa for Religious Workers

The R-1 Visa recipient has the opportunity to stay in the United States for up to 30 months. When the initial 30 months are complete, there is an option to extend the program for an additional 30 months by submitting an R-1 Visa Extension. However, the total amount of time spent in the United States cannot exceed 5 years.
An R-1 Visa employer must apply for the visa in advance due to the high volume of applicants and the required site visit. However, after an R-1 Visa employer has received permission, obtaining an additional R-1 Visa will result in a faster process.
R-1 Visa holders have the clearance to travel around the United States and outside the country. The length for traveling can continue until the R-1 Visa status has expired.

Relatives of R-1 Visa Holders

The spouse and/or unmarried children (under 21) of an R-1 religious worker may meet the R-1 visa for religious workers requirements to receive an R-2 classification. Click here to learn more.

R-1 Visa for Religious Workers Requirements:

  • The religious worker needs to have been affiliated with the United States’ non-profit denomination for at least two years.
  • The religious worker must be able to provide evidence of recognition from the religious organization. This requirement can be met by a license, certificate, or official qualification documentation.
  • The U.S. employer must file a Petition for nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129).
  • Workers who are exempt from the visa must display the original Form I-797 at a port of entry.
  • Workers can work for multiple employers, however, each employer must be qualified and submit a petition. The worker must also fill out additional USCIS documentation for each employment.

R-1 Visa for Religious Workers Petition Requirements

As listed by the USCIS, if the petitioner is claiming tax exemption as a bona fide non-profit religious organization that:

  • Has its own individual Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 501(c)(3) letter then you’ll need to submit a currently valid determination letter from the IRS showing that the organization is tax-exempt.
  • Is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax exemption then you’ll need to submit a currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the group is tax-exempt. You’ll also need to submit group ruling that the group is tax exempt.
  • Is affiliated with the religious denomination and was granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3), or subsequent amendment or equivalent sections of prior enactments of the Internal Revenue Code, as something other than a religious organization. You’ll then need to submit the following:

(a) A currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is tax-exempt.

(b) documentation establishing the religious nature and purpose of the organization.

(c) organizational literature describing the religious purpose and nature of the activities of the organization.

(d) A religious denomination certification stating that the petitioning organization is affiliated with the religious denomination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you able to work for a different employer after arriving in the U.S. under R-1? 

You can work for a different employer but they must petition you for the new visa. If, however, the new employer is not a religious organization you would need to seek an alternate type of work visa.

Is there a method to become a permanent U.S. resident after finishing work on an R-1?

You may be able to become a permanent resident by fulfilling the requirements of the EB-4 ‘Special Immigrant Religious Workers’ category.

How can I receive an R-1 visa?

After first filing Form I-129, the petitioning religious group must wait for approval. Until that approval is granted, the worker will not receive their visa at the consulate office.

How VisaNation Law Group’s Immigration Lawyers Can Help:

  • The R-1 Visa requires cohesive and extensive information from both the U.S. employer and you. VisaNation Law Group’s R-1 Visa lawyers are capable of advising and helping you with the required documentation.
  • Along with steps needed for the R-1 Visa, the attorneys are knowledgeable in the process needed to obtain an R-2 for your spouse and children (unmarried and under 21).
  • VisaNation Law Group immigration attorneys organize and plan tactical strategies to meet crucial deadlines and submit clear and concise data.