Work visas

R-1 Visa

R-1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

An R-1 visa is held by a foreign national who is coming to the United States to be temporarily employed in a religious vocation sponsored by a recognized denomination.

R-1 visa candidates are individuals who are duly authorized by the religious denomination to which they belong, and are fully trained according to the denomination’s standards to conduct religious worship and other duties usually performed by the clergy.

The recipient of the R-1 visa is the beneficiary. The sponsoring group is the petitioner.

R-1 Application Process

An R-1 visa may be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad only with prior USCIS approval of Form I-129.

Along with Form I-129, the petitioner must include evidence of eligibility.  Both the petitioning organization and the religious worker must satisfy certain requirements. 

Proof of Salaried or Non-Salaried Compensation

The petitioning organization must show how the religious worker seeking an R-1 visa (nonimmigrant or immigrant) will be supported in the United States. If self-support is claimed, the petitioner must submit verifiable evidence* that he or she is participating in an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work within the petitioning organization. The program must be part of a broader, international program of missionary work sponsored by the petitioning agency.

*The following items are considered verifiable evidence of how the organization will compensate the religious worker, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation:

  1. Past records of compensation for similar positions.
  2. A budget showing money set aside for salaries, leases, etc.
  3. Documentation that room and board will be provided to the religious worker.

Self-Supporting Religious Workers

Copies of the beneficiary’s bank record or budget documenting the sources of self-support. These may include, but are not limited to, personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination’s churches, or other verifiable evidence.

Proof of Membership (Compensated or Self-Supporting)

Evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before the filing of Form I-129.

If the religious worker seeking an O-1 visa will be working as a minister, the petitioner will need to provide:

  • A copy of the beneficiary’s certificate of ordination or similar documents.
  • Documents confirming the denomination’s acceptance of the beneficiary’s qualifications as a minister, as well as evidence that he or she has completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by the petitioner.

If the denomination does not require a prescribed theological education, provide:

  1. The petitioner’s requirements for ordination to minister.
  2. A list of duties performed or to be performed.
  3. The denomination’s levels of ordination.
  4. Evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination.

Period of Stay

The USCIS may grant R-1 status for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months. Subsequent R-1 visa extensions may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The religious worker’s total period of stay in the United States in R-1 classification may not exceed 60 months.

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