R-1: Religious Worker Visa

What is an R-1 Religious Worker Visa and who Qualifies?

R-1 is a non-immigrant visa for religious workers. The applicant must prove that: 1) they will be employed in a religious occupation; 2) by a qualified organization; 3) of which they have been a member for at least 2 years.

A “religious occupation” for the purpose of the R-1 visa is a job that relates to a traditional religious function. Jobs outside of the clergy may be considered a religious occupation and they include: religious instructors, counselors, religious health care workers, missionaries, broadcasters. Occupations that are not inherently religious in nature, such as fundraisers or clerical staff, are not qualified.

A “qualified organization” for the purpose of the R-1 visa is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization affiliated with a religious denomination. “Religious denomination” is any group with a statement of faith, ecclesiastical government, codes of doctrine and discipline, religious services/ceremonies, or an established place of worship.

Required Documents

Documents required for a successful R-1 application include, but are not limited to:

  • Organization’s support letter
  • Contract between organization and beneficiary confirming terms of employment
  • Evidence of organization’s 501(c)(3) status or qualification for 501(c)(3) status
  • Evidence establishing the religious nature and purpose of the organization
  • Evidence of organization’s ability to compensate the beneficiary
  • Evidence of religious worker’s membership in the religious denomination

Interesting Facts

R-1 may be initially granted for up to 30 months. This visa may be renewed for a total of 5 consecutive years. Unlike H-1B visas, time spent outside of the U.S. while on R-1 status may not be recaptured to extend the visa beyond the 5-year maximum. R-1 is considered semi-dual intent which means that applicants are not required to maintain a foreign residence while in the U.S. and they may extend R-1 status during a pending green card application.

Attorney Role

The attorney’s role in R-1 visas is to ensure that the application is submitted in a complete, organized manner, with adequate supporting evidence to establish the applicant’s eligibility for R-1 status. Knowledge on the part of the attorney of what the immigration authorities expect from a strong application is essential.

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To discuss R-1 visa petitions and other types of employment based petitions with an experienced immigration attorney from the American Visa Law Group, feel free click the contact us tab and fill out the inquiry form or call us at 510-500-1155.