R-1 Religious Worker Visa

What is an R-1: Complete Guide

R-1 Visas are available to a foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States to be employed by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister, religious vocation or occupation.

Religious vocation means a formal lifetime commitment, through vows, investitures, ceremonies, or similar indicia, to a religious way of life (e.g. nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters).  Religious occupation on the other hand is defined as a continual engagement in an activity related to a traditional religious function (e.g. religious instructors, missionaries, religious translators, religious broadcasters) however it does not include workers like maintenance workers, fund raisers, or solicitors of donations).

Procedures & Requirements

  • The foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years preceding the filing of the petition;
  • A foreign national must be entering the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week);
  • The petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by the U.S. employer with the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

Related Issues

  • An R-1 Visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval from the USCIS;
  • Visa-exempt (e.g. Canadian) R-1’s must present the original Form I-797 reflecting an approval of a valid I-129 R petition at the port of entry;
  • An R-1 Visa is generally valid for an initial period of three years, with extensions granted in periods of two years.  The total period of stay in the United States cannot exceed five years;
  • R-1 worker’s spouse and unmarried child/ren under the age of 21 years are eligible for R-2 classification.  The dependent of R-1 worker are not allowed to work while in the United States in R-2 status unless they qualify for a work visa.

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