R-1 Visa Temporary Non-immigrant Religious Workers

An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.



Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, the foreign national 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.

Every petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by a prospective or existing U.S. employer through the filing of a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.  An R-1 visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval of Form I-129 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  If the foreign national is visa-exempt (e.g. Canadian), he or she must present the original Form I-797, Notice of Action, reflecting an approval of a valid I-129 R petition at a port of entry.  There are certain general requirements which must be satisfied by the petitioning organization as well as by the religious worker, the beneficiary of the petition. 

Period of Stay

An R-1 status may be granted for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months.  An extension of an R-1 status may be granted for up to an additional 30 months.  The total stay in the United States in an R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months (5 years).

Family of R-1 Visa Holders

R-1 worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification.  The dependents of an R-1 worker may not accept employment while in the United States in R-2 status.

Green Cards

For information about petitioning for a permanent immigrant religious worker, see the “Employment-Based Immigration Fourth Preference EB-4” under the “Permanent Workers” link to the left.

Written by:Mark Carmel