What is an R-1 Visa?

Some people’s reasons for entering the U.S. are unique. While the average person may want to visit for leisure, business, or employment, some have entered after being given a higher calling.

The R1 visa is appropriate for religious workers who do not meet the requirements for employment under other visa categories. If you want to pursue religious professions or careers, the R1 visa is a great option. Speak to an R-1 visa immigration attorney to find out your options.

R-1 Visa — Requirements For Organizations

A non-citizen who enters the country temporarily and works at least part-time (on average, 20 hours per week minimum) in a religious vocation—such as a clergyman or minister—or in another religious occupation must work for an organization that falls into one of these categories:

  • A religious organization that has received permission from a group tax exemption holder to use such exemption
  • An American non-profit religious organization
  • An American non-profit organization connected to a particular religious movement

Contact an R-1 visa and immigration lawyer at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi to determine if your organization qualifies.

Jobs Covered by the R-1 Visa for Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

For non-Americans traveling to the United States to work as religious workers, R-1 visas are non-immigrant, temporary work visas. But what is encompassed in the term “religious workers”?

This kind of visa may be available to:

  • Ministers
  • Priests
  • Teachers
  • Interpreters
  • Missionaries
  • Other religious workers

Every religious employee cannot work at these organizations in the U.S. using an R-1 visa. Only those who are directly involved in some traditional religious function or who are clergy that conduct religious worship are eligible. For example, administrative, clerical, or support workers cannot apply for an R-1 visa. Instead, they must apply for another relevant visa.

Applying for an R-1 Visa

You must have been a member of a religious denomination with a legitimate nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years before submitting the petition to be eligible for an R-1 Visa.

The Petition by the Religious Employer

Form I-129—Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker—must be filled out by religious employers to begin the process. The employer is responsible for paying the $460 cost of this documentation, which also needs evidence of tax exemption.

Most of the time, USCIS will pay a site visit after receiving the petition to verify the affiliation between the employer and religious organization. The foreign national can start the application procedure if the employer gives consent via Form I-797—Notice of Action.

The Visa Application by the Religious Worker

Form DS-160—Non-Immigrant Visa Application—must be completed by every applicant (the employee) for a non-immigrant visa. This form asks several questions about the applicant’s background and the reason for their journey to the United States.

While the DS-160 form submission fees are $190, additional costs can be necessary depending on the connection between the United States and the foreign person’s place of origin.

The Religious Worker’s Interview

People who apply for a non-immigrant visa must meet and interview with a representative at the American Embassy or consulate in their place of origin or current residence. The interview step is not an unusual part of the visa application process.

To confirm that your petition has been approved, you must present your I-129 petition receipt number to the interview at the U.S. Embassy. Please be aware that if you are determined not to be eligible for a visa under U.S. immigration law, acceptance of a petition does not ensure an R-1 visa will be issued.

Here are examples of supporting documents that you may need to provide at the interview:

  • A letter attesting that your religious affiliation is upheld outside of the United States, signed by an authorized representative of the division where you work
  • The address of the particular religious organization or affiliate for which you will perform services
  • Relevant documents incorporating your business per state law

Conditions of an R-1 Visa


A person can travel on the R-1 visa with their spouse and children in R-2 visa status. They, however, are not permitted to work in America. They must be traveling with the R-1 holder to be in the country.

As long as their stay doesn’t exceed five years, R-1 holders are eligible to apply for a status extension or reentry while still in this status for up to 30 months. When the extension has been approved, the R-2 family members must complete and submit Form I-539—Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The R-1 worker will have to spend one year abroad to be qualified to enter the country again after serving the entire five years in the country.


For as long as their R-1 visa is valid, R-1 visa holders may reside and work in the U.S. They may lead normal lives. In addition to taking advantage of educational possibilities, they may create bank accounts, obtain driver’s licenses, and engage in full- or part-time studies. They are free to enter and exit the U.S., as well.

A R-1 Visa Application Lawyer Can Help

Visa application procedures are complex and drawn out. It would be best if you had the assistance of experience on your side because various problems might arise along the process ahead.

For a seamless R-1 visa application procedure, consult a qualified R-1 Visa Application attorney. Start your free consultation with the Law Office of Lina Baroudi immigration attorneys now.

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