The R Visa category is designed for people who wish to come to the U.S. to work in a religious capacity on a temporary basis.

An R-1 is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa that allows a foreign national to be employed in the U.S. at least part-time (20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization to work as a minister or in another religious occupation or vocation.

Qualifications for the R-1 Visa
  • Must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
  • The religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, must either be exempt from taxation or must qualify for tax-exempt status.
R-1 Period of Stay

An R-1 visa is initially granted for a period of up to 30 months. R-1 status may be extended, but the worker's stay may not exceed the maximum of 5 years (60 months).

R-1 Family Visas

An R-1 worker's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification to accompany the principal applicant to the United States for the duration of his/her stay. Like H-4s, the dependents of an R-1 worker may not be employed while in the United States in R-2 status.

R-1 Visa Application Procedure

An existing US employer/organization must file an I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of a prospective R-1 religious worker, as well as an R-1 Classification Supplement, with the USCIS. In addition, supporting documents are required from both the religious organization and the religious worker.

Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Organization
  • Proof of tax-exempt status
  • Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation for the worker
  • If the religious worker will be self-supporting:
    • Documents that establish the religious worker will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination
    • Evidence that establishes that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work in which:
      • Foreign workers, whether compensated or uncompensated, have previously participated in R-1 status;
      • Missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated;
      • The organization provides formal training for missionaries; and
      • Participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination.
  • Copies of the religious worker's bank records, budgets documenting the sources of self-support (including personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination's churches, or other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS)
  • Evidence of the duties and responsibilities associated with this traditionally uncompensated missionary work
  • If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide:
    • A copy of the religious worker's certificate of ordination or similar documents
    • Documents reflecting acceptance of the religious worker's qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the religious worker has completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination
    • If the denominations do not require a prescribed theological education, provide:
      • The religious denomination's requirements for ordination as a minister
      • A list of duties performed by virtue of ordination
      • The denomination's levels of ordination, if any, and
      • Evidence of the religious worker's completion of the denomination's requirements for ordination
  • Documents reflecting acceptance of the religious worker's qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the 
  • Evidence that establishes that the organization's religious denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad
  • Evidence of the religious worker's acceptance into the missionary program
  • Proof of previous R-1 employment (for extension of stay as an R-1)

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