The R-1 Religious Worker visa is issued to individuals who act in a religious capacity to enter the U.S. to perform temporary religious services such as conducting religious worship.
In order to be eligible to apply for an R-1 visa, the following conditions must be present:
- The applicant must be coming to the U.S. to perform the minister duties of the organization’s religious affiliation.
- The organization sponsoring the applicant for the R-1 visa must be a bona fide nonprofit religious organization.
- The applicant must be a member of this organization’s religious denomination for a minimum of 2 years preceding the R-1 visa application.
- The applicant must be employed for a minimum of 20 hours per week for the sponsoring organization.
The following individuals will be eligible for applying for the R-1 visa:
- Ministers: In order for a person to be eligible for an R-1 visa as a Minister, they must have received authorization from a recognized religious denomination. They must have the authority to perform duties regularly performed by authorized personnel of that denomination. This authorization must be documented by evidence such as licenses, certificates, conferral letters etc.
- Professional Workers: These workers are individuals who desire to come to the U.S. to perform services in a religious vocation or occupation. These vocations or occupations must require a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
- Other Religious Workers: These workers are individuals who perform services in a religious vocation or occupation.
Prior to the approval of an R-1 visa petition, USCIS will conduct an unannounced site visit in order to ensure that the organization sponsoring the individual for the R-1 visa is a functioning religious organization. During this site visit, USCIS officers will request to see documentation such as religious writings, payroll records, and tax exemption status.
Initial R-1 visas are issued for 3 years and can be extended for an additional 2 years, for a maximum period of 5 years. The applicant will not be granted additional extensions unless they have spent a complete year outside of the U.S.
Individuals employed in R-1 status are eligible for Green Card applications after being employed in R-1 status for a minimum of 2 years.
Spouses and children under the age of 21 are eligible to accompany the R-1 holder to the U.S. for the duration of the R-1 visa under the separate R-2 visa category. Spouses and children are also authorized to study in the U.S. without applying for a separate student visa, however they are not eligible for employment.