R-1 Visa for Religious Workers

The R-1 visa was created for religious workers. To qualify, the applicant must be coming to the U.S. for the purpose of acting as a minister, managing, or working for the organization in a religious capacity. The applicant must have been a member of a religious denomination for at least two years immediately preceding the application for the R-1 visa, but need not to have prior work experience with the specific religious organization. (However, applicants with at least two years of related work experience may be eligible for an immigrant visa/permanent residence in the U.S. through a petition by the U.S. organization. (EB-4).

A religious vocation is defined as a calling to religious life, demonstrated by a lifelong commitment such as taking vows. Nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters are examples of religious workers.

This classification includes liturgical workers, religious instructors or cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, and religious broadcasters. However, this classification does not apply to secular members of a church or lay-persons who work for a religious institution such as janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fundraisers, or solicitors of donations, etc.

The religious institution  for which the applicant will work must be a must be a nonprofit organization; have a branch, office or other presence in the U.S.; and consist of a bona fide and currently operating religious domination. Also, the sponsoring organization should be tax-exempt under U.S. tax laws in accordance with IRC Sec.501(c)(3). offer employment, disclose the terms of employment and demonstrate applicant’s qualifications for the R-1 status. The U.S. petitioner must be able to prove the ability to pay the wage of the religious worker and family (if applicable) and the wage must be sufficient to meet 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines as set by HHS.

If the alien is a minister, proof of authorization to conduct religious worship under the designated denomination, as well as other duties that are applicable. A detailed description of all duties must be included.

If the alien is a religious professional, proof of at least an U.S. bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent must be provided. The degree must be required for entry into the religious profession.

If the alien is to work in another religious vocation or occupation, proof of qualification must be provided. This may include evidence establishing the individual is a nun, monk or religious brother, or that they are qualified to work in a religious occupation, that is to perform work that is related to a traditional religious function.

Religious workers are initially admitted with R-1 status for 3 years. An extension of stay may be granted for an additional two years, not to exceed a total maximum stay of five years.

Dependents Of R-1 Religious Workers

An R-1 worker’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 are entitled to R-2 classification and the same duration of stay as the R-1 principal from whom they derive status. R-2 visa holders are not authorized to work while in the U.S. under this classification, but may attend school.

Many applicants are unsure if they meet the basic requirement to apply for an R-1 Visa. Along with this concern, the visa application process can be complicated and intimidating for those who have not dealt with it before. Many applicants have concerns about the proper forms and how to fill them out, or where to send their information, or what will happen while their application is being processed. For assistance with the preparation and filing, or extension of an application for R-1 status, please contact our office for a consultation.