R-1 visas are intended for individuals who wish to temporarily work in the United States in a religious capacity.

The R-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that permits for foreign nationals to be able to work for a nonprofit religious organization in the U.S., either as a minister or in another religious occupation or vocation, on part-time basis (20 hours per week) at the very minimum.

Qualifications for the R-1 Visa:

  1. The individual must have been a member of a religious denomination with a legitimate nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. for at least 2 years prior to filing the petition.
  2. The religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, must either be tax-exempt or qualify for tax-exempt status.

R-1 Visa Period of Stay:

An R-1 visa is initially granted for a period of up to 30 months. The R-1 status can be extended, but the total stay cannot exceed 5 years (60 months).

R-1 Family Visas:

The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of an R-1 worker may be eligible for R-2 classification, allowing them to accompany the principal applicant during their stay in the U.S. However, like H-4 visa holders, dependents in R-2 status are not permitted to work in the United States.

R-1 Visa Application Procedure:

An existing U.S. employer/organization must file an I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on behalf of the prospective R-1 religious worker, along with an R-1 Classification Supplement, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Both the religious organization and the religious worker must provide supporting documents.

Supporting Documents Required from the Religious Organization:

  • Proof of tax-exempt status
  • Evidence of compensation for the worker (salaried or non-salaried)
  • If the religious worker will be self-supporting, documents demonstrating their participation in an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work sponsored by the denomination
  • Copies of the religious worker's bank records and budgets showing sources of self-support
  • Evidence of duties and responsibilities associated with missionary work or ministerial duties
  • For ministers, a copy of the religious worker's ordination certificate or similar documents, as well as evidence of completion of theological education required or recognized by the religious denomination
  • If theological education is not required, the religious denomination's ordination requirements, duties performed, levels of ordination, and evidence of completion of the denomination's requirements

Additionally, evidence should be provided to establish that the religious denomination maintains missionary programs in both the U.S. and abroad, and that the religious worker has been accepted into the missionary program. Proof of previous R-1 employment is required for an extension of stay as an R-1.

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