The R-1 religious worker visa allows ministers and others with a traditional religious occupation or vocation to work in the United States for a maximum five-year stay.
R-1 Visa Requirements
- The R-1 sponsoring organization is bona fide religious organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, either by itself or through a group ruling. If the sponsoring organization was not granted tax-exempt status as a religious organization, it must be affiliated with a religious denomination.
- The R-1 visa applicant must have belonged to the religious denomination of the organization for at least two years.
- The applicant must be coming to work for at least 20 hours a week on average for the petitioner.
R-1 Visa Filing Process
Whether the religious worker is in the United States or abroad, a petition needs to be filed with USCIS first. The processing time is normally 2-4 months, unless there needs to be a site visit, in which case the petition could take much longer, depending on the schedule of the local office conducting the visit. All religious worker petitions are adjudicated by the California Service Center, and you can check their processing times online.
On a site visit, USCIS officers will come to the work place to ensure that it is a functioning religious organization. The officers will ask to see documents supporting the petition, such as proof of nonprofit status, religious literature, financial records, and payroll records. The site visit is often unannounced, but it is valid for five years, even for different positions and/or workers.
The maximum initial stay for an R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker is 30 months, which may be extended another 30 months to a total of five years by filing a new I-129 petition.
If you are out of the United States or you travel after receiving a change to R-1 status, you will need to get an R-1 visa at a US consulate. This can be done either at your home country or in another country where you are traveling.
More information about R-1 visas can be found at the religious worker FAQ.