R-1 Visa

R-1 Religious Worker Visa

The R-1 visa is reserved for foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States to perform services related to their religious calling or vocation and receive direct compensation for their work.

To qualify for the R visa, a foreign national must demonstrate that:

(1) for the two (2) years immediately preceding the time of the visa application, s/he has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States;

(2) s/he seeks to enter the United States solely to carry on the vocation of a minister of that religious denomination, or to work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for that organization, or to work in a religious vocation or occupation for that organization or for a bona fide organization affiliated with that organization; and

(3) s/he seeks admission to the United States for a period not to exceed five (5) years.

The foreign national may apply to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy for the R visa to be placed in his/her passport (after the USCIS has approved an R-1 petition on his/her behalf).

R visas are issued to foreign nationals who will carry on the vocation of minister of religion or who will work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation, or who will work in a non-professional religious vocation or occupation. “Professional capacity” is defined as requiring the minimum of a baccalaureate degree in a religious vocation or occupation. “Religious occupation” is defined as a traditional religious function and specifically precludes clerks, fundraisers, maintenance workers, and persons involved solely in the solicitation of donations. “Religious vocation” is defined as a calling to religious life, such as the taking of vows.

The foreign national’s work must be coming to the United States to work on behalf of a bona fide nonprofit religious organization, which is defined as an organization that is exempt from taxation under 26 USC §501 (c)(3) as it relates to religious organizations. Non-profit corporations which have an affiliation with a religious organization can also sponsor religious workers.

A religious denomination refers to a religious group or community of believers having: (1) some form of ecclesiastical government; (2) a creed or statement of faith; (3) a code of doctrine and discipline; (4) religious services and ceremonies; (5) established places of religious worship; and (6) religious congregations; or (7) comparable indicia of bona fide religious organization.

An R visa holder may be admitted for an initial period of stay of up to three (3) years. They may then be eligible for a two-year extension. After five (5) years in R status, the foreign nationals must reside and be physically present outside the United States (except for brief visits) for one (1) year before a new petition to be classified as an R nonimmigrant can be filed with USCIS.

Spouses and minor children may qualify for dependent visas to accompany the principal R visa holder; however, as dependents, they are not authorized to work.