R-1 Visa

The R-1 visa allows foreign workers to enter the U.S.temporarily to work (full-time or part-time) with a non-profit religious organization in capacity of a religious worker. For example: minister, priest, monk, rabbi or other religious worker.

To qualify for an R-1 visa, both petitioning organization and foreign national have to meet certain requirements. Petitioner, a religious denomination must be a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States. Beneficiary, a foreign national, must be coming to the United States to carry on the vocation of minister for that organization or to work for the organization in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation. In addition, the foreign national must have been working in such vocation, occupation, or ministerial capacity for at least two years preceding the intended entry.

A religious vocation is defined as a calling to religious life, shown by a demonstration of a lifelong commitment; for instance, taking vows. A religious occupation is defined as a continual engagement in an activity related to a traditional religious function.

R-1 status may be granted for an initial period of 30 months and subsequent extensions for up to an additional 30 months.The spouse and unmarried children below the age of 21 are allowed to accompany or join the R-1 worker as R-2 dependents. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to work based on this visa classification, but can attend school.

Requirements to be eligible for R-1 visa:

  • Petitioning Entity:
    • Must be a bona fide non-profit religious organization or a bona fide organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination and is exempt from taxation.
    • The organization must be exempt from federal tax requirements as described in Section 501(c)(3), as determined by the IRS;
    • The petitioning entity must have the ability to compensate the R-1 nonimmigrant in either salaried or non-salaried manner
  • Beneficiary requirements:
    • Be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the US for at least the 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition;
    • Be coming to the US to work at least in a part-time position (at least 20 hours per week);
    • Be coming solely as a minister or to perform a religious vocation or occupation;

Procedure and Documentation for applying for an R-1 visa:

  1. Petitioning Entity to file an I-129 petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with applicable fees and following documentation:
    • Proof from IRS that it is tax exempt entity [Section 501(c)(3)];
    • Proof of compensation capability .
    • Documents evidencing that beneficiary was working continuously for at least two years immediately preceding the petition (after turning 14 years of age) as a minister or in a religious vocation or religious occupation;
    • Documents in support of the beneficiary’s ordination, if applicable, and qualifications supporting the religious occupation/ vocation being offered.
  2. Obtain approval of I-129 petition from USCIS vide Form I-797.
  3. Beneficiary to apply for visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
  • Obtain Approval Notice (Form I-797) from USCIS for the R-1 petition filed by a qualifying religious entity
  • Complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/, upload photos while completing the online Form I-160, and print the confirmation page for interview
  • Pay the non-refundable visa application fee
  • Make an appointment for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consualte