Skip directly to content

R Visas

R-1 Visas – Religious Workers
The R-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for Religious Workers and is issued to applicants who wish to work temporarily in the United States in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation.
 
Religious vocations include traditional religious functions (e.g., a nun or a monk). It does not matter what particular job the applicant would be performing in his or her religious capacity.

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 an R visa if he or 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 US 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 include the presence of some form of ecclesiastical government, a recognized form of worship, a formal code of doctrine and disciplines, religious services and ceremonies, established places of religious worship, and religious congregations.
 
Documents Required for R-1 Visa Applications
For an R-1 Application, 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 US 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 intending to employ the applicant stating:
    • That the applicant has been a member of the denomination for the required two years (if the membership was maintained in whole or part outside the US, then it must be demonstrated that the foreign and US religious organizations belong to the same religious denomination)
    • That the application is qualified for the position, with a brief description of the proposed position;
    • The arrangements for salary, benefits and other monetary compensation, if any;
    • The name and location where the alien will be giving his/her services.
Application for the Visa
If the applicant is outside the US, he or she may apply directly to a US Consulate for an R visa.  If the alien is already in the US, 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 US for at least one year in order to be eligible again. (A brief visit to the U.S. during the one-year period may be acceptable.)
 
R-2 Visas – Family
R-2 visas are 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 R-1 visa holder. Dependents may be students in the US, but R-2 visa holders are not authorized to work in the United States.