R-1 Visas for Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

R-1 visas are issued to temporary religious workers with non-immigrant intent. The intending worker must be sponsored by a non-profit religious organization that has been present for a minimum of two years within the United States. The petitioning organization and immigrant must demonstrate that the worker will participate in full-time (a minimum of 35 hours) work at the organization per week. The petitioning organization must provide evidence regarding the compensation for the position, which may include: budgets, evidence of previous compensation for a similar position, or verifiable documentation of room and board (if it will be provided).

If the religious worker will support themselves during their time in the U.S., they must demonstrate a financial ability to do so and that the position is part of an international missionary program.

R-1 visas grant the religious worker permission to work for the religious organization in the US for up to 30 months; with a possible 30 month extension. A religious worker may remain in R-1 status for up to 60 months. Should a religious worker seek R-1 status again, after previously maintaining R-1 status for 60 months, they must remain outside the U.S. for one full year before seeking R-1 status again.

Additionally, it is the burden of the petitioning organization to evidence their tax exempt status under the IRS as a religious non-profit [Section 501(c)(3)]. It is the burden of the religious worker to demonstrate their membership in the religious organization. Spouses and children under 21 of R-1 religious workers are eligible for R-2 classification, but are not authorized to accept employment as R-2 visa holders. There are currently no annual quotas or caps for R-1 visas.

How do I qualify for an R-1 Visa?

  1. The sponsoring Religious Organization must exist &have a bona fide presence within the U.S. for at least two years prior to petition an alien for R1 status;
  2. The sponsoring Religious Organization is tax-exempt under the IRS as described in section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code;
  3. The intending religious worker must have been a member of the Religious Organization (including the specific religious denomination or one closely similar in practice and beliefs) for a least two years immediately prior to filing for the R-1 Visa;
  4. If applying from outside the US, you must be entering the US for the sole purpose of working and carrying out the duties of the Religious Organization in a religious capacity;
  5. R-1 Religious workers who max out the 5 year stay must remain physically outside of the U.S. for 1 full year before seeking R-1 status again.
  6. Must be seeking to work in a religious occupation or vocation as defined in 8 CFR § 204.5(m).
  7. This includes: Ministers, Rabbis, Priests, Clergy members, or other individuals in a role that directly relates to the dissemination or inculcation of the organizations beliefs or creed that is a recognized occupation within the organization.
  8. Other religious workers can include: Vocational religious workers who have taken vows, ceremonies, etc., attesting to a particular religious lifestyle that is recognized by the organization such as nuns, monks, and religious brothers & sisters.

Those who are not eligible include: administrative or supporting occupations such as: maintenance workers, janitors, clerks, accountants, fundraisers, choir members, musicians, administration (when not directly related to the organization’s beliefs or doctrine), or religious students (although study & training is allowed under R-1 status).

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