R-1 Religious Workers

Religious workers

R-1 Visas – Religious Workers

The ‘R-1’ visa is a non-immigrant visa, meant for Religious Workers and is issued to persons who wish to work temporarily in the United States, in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation.

Religious vocation means traditional religious functions (e.g. a nun or a monk). It does not matter what particular job he/she is performing in his/her capacity as a nun/monk.

Religious occupation is an activity that relates to traditional religious functions, e.g. cantors (one who leads a service or church choir), liturgical workers (public service workers of the church), translators, religious broadcasters and workers in religious hospitals (excluding nurses and lay workers). This category does not include clerks, fundraisers or maintenance workers.

A person is eligible for the ‘R’ visa if he/she is:

  1. A minister of religion; (deacons, practitioners of Christian Science and officers of the Salvation Army may be deemed ministers)
  2. A professional in a religious vocation or occupation;
  3. A person working for a bona fide nonprofit religious organization at the request of the organization, in a religious occupation, which relates to a traditional religious function.

The applicant must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years preceding the application. The religious denomination must have a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States. The U.S. petitioning organization must be a nonprofit, religious organization granted (or eligible for) tax exempt status, and must demonstrate that it can and will provide for all of the R-1 beneficiary’s financial and physical needs

Factors that determine a bona fide religious denomination are the presence of some form of ecclesiastical government, a recognized creed and form of worship, a formal code of doctrine and disciplines, religious services and ceremonies, established places of religious worship, religious congregations, etc.

Documents Required
Form I-129 must be filed by an authorized official of the U.S. organization and must be accompanied by:

  1. Evidence to show that the U.S. organization or any affiliate, which will engage the alien’s services, is a bona fide, religious organization, and is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
  2. A letter from an authorized official of the religious organization that will be employing the alien, stating:
    a. That the alien has been a member of the denomination for the required two years; (if the membership was maintained in whole or part outside the U.S., then it must be shown that the foreign and U.S. religious organization belong to the same religious denomination)
    b. That the alien is qualified for the position, with a brief description of the proposed position;
    c. The arrangements for salary, benefits and other monetary compensations, if any;
    d. The name and location where the alien will be giving his/her services.

Application for the Visa
If the alien is outside the U.S., he/she may apply directly to a consulate for an R visa.

If the alien is already in the U.S., the religious organization may use Form I-129 to petition for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment.

Duration of Stay
The initial admission is granted for three years and may be extended up to a total period of five years. After a stay of five years, the person must reside outside the U.S. for at least one year to be eligible again. (A brief visit to the U.S. during the one-year period may be acceptable.)

R-2 Visas – Family
Issued to the spouse and dependant children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a beneficiary of an R-1 visa, for the duration of the same term as the principal holder. Dependents may be students in the U.S., but R-2 visa holders are not authorized to work in the United States.


Religious workers

The information in this article is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship between The Law Offices of Cyrus S Nallaseth and the viewer.