R-1 Visa

The R-1 visa is issued to religious workers (ministers, nuns, monks, priests and others engaged in religious vocation and religious occupation) seeking to work in the U.S. in religious capacity.

Spouses and dependents under the age of 21 are allowed to join the R-1 visa holder in R-2 visa status.

R-1 Quick Facts

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published new rules on November 21, 2008 that significantly revises the nonimmigrant R-1 religious worker visa classification regulations in an effort to eliminate and reduce fraud in the current religious worker program.
  • Effectively immediately, USCIS requires the U.S. employer or petitioning organization for the R-1 nonimmigrant worker to file the petition for nonimmigrant worker with USCIS. The beneficiary can no longer obtain the R-1 visa directly at a U.S. consulate overseas or at a port-of-entry.
  • Under the new rules, the initial period of stay for an R-1 applicant is thirty (30) months. USCIS will consider requests for one (1) potential extension of an additional 30 months when it is time to file for R-1 extension.
  • USCIS may conduct random onsite inspections of organizations that seek to employ religious workers. This inspection component is intended to deter and detect fraudulent petitions and allow USCIS to monitor religious workers and make sure they comply with the terms of the R-1 status.
  • The beneficiary must demonstrate membership and affiliation in the same religious denomination as the U.S. employer for a period of at least two (2) continuous years. The new regulations do permit a short break in the two (2) year period if the beneficiary was undergoing further religious training or he/she was on a sabbatical.

R-1 Visa Process

The sponsoring religious organization contacts our firm and provides the following:

  1. Documents establishing the petitioner’s tax-exempt status as a bona fide non-profit religious organization or a certification affiliation with a religious denomination.
  2. Documents that show that the beneficiary/religious worker is a member in the same religious denomination as the U.S. employer seeking to employ him or her.
  3. Evidentiary proof of how the beneficiary will be financially supported in the United States.
  4. Evidentiary proof that the beneficiary/religious worker qualifies for the offered position.

With new R-1 regulations in place, it is vitally important to engage the professional services of a qualified attorney to help guide the petitioner through this filing process. Our firm evaluates the documents and evidence available and advises the petitioner if additional documents and evidence are needed to strengthen the case. We also handle all approval and post-approval issues that may arise during the R-1 process.