R-1 Visas for Religious Workers

R-1 visas, a recently created type of visa, are for individuals who wish to enter the United States and work in a religious capacity. According to the Department of State, to qualify applicants must:

  • be a member of the same religious denomination as the religious organization he or she plan to work for in the United States for at least two years before that organization files a petition on his or her behalf;
  • be coming to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation in the United States;
  • be employed by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States); and
  • work at least part time with an average of at least 20 hours per week.
How to Apply for an R-1 Visa

Before applying for an R-1 visa, the applicant's prospective or current employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the applicant with the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS). Once the employer has submitted the Form I-129, the applicant must also submit a copy of the Form I-129 with the visa petition.

The applicant must submit a Form DS-160 and attend an interview with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The R-1 visa applicant must also provide documentation showing proof of membership and ministerial qualifications (if working as a minister). Once the documentation has been submitted and interview conducted, USCIS will determine whether to issue the visa.

Filing for an R-1 Extension

R-1 visas can be issued for three years, and an extension of two years can be requested for a maximum period of five years. To request an extension, applicants and their employers must file the Form I-129 once again, while an accompanying spouse and unmarried children under 21 must file Form I-539. Applicants requesting an extension must provide proof of salaried compensation. If applicants receive non-salaried compensation, IRS documentation must be submitted. If no IRS documentation is available, then an explanation of why and comparable evidence of compensation should be submitted.

If individuals with R-1 visas wish to remain beyond five years in the United States, then they must physically reside outside of the United States for at least one year.

Contact an Immigration Attorney to Assist with Your R-Visa Application or Extension

Samuel C. Berger, P.C., practices in the New York and New Jersey areas, representing individuals who wish to immigrate to this region, family members seeking to bring a loved one here, and employers who want to hire talent from abroad. We advise families and businesses on how to help immigrants come here, and we help immigrants obtain visas and green cards. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our legal team, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.