What is a religious worker R-1 visa?
An R-1 visa allows a person to pursue temporary employment in a religious occupation for up to five years. Other visa categories may also apply to religious workers.
Our legal team specializes in visa options for religious workers and can advise you on the best immigration strategy for your church or ministry worker.
Do I qualify?
Religious workers must meet specific requirements in order to qualify for an R-1 visa:
- The applicant must have been a member of a denomination that has a bona fide, non-profit religious organization in the U.S.
- The applicant must have been a member of the religious organization for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
- The employer-petitioner must be recognized by the IRS as a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
- The employer-petitioner must provide evidence of ability to pay or support the religious worker.
- The job description and/or occupation must be religious in nature. The applicant must show his or her intention to work as an ordained minister of the organization, in a religious profession or occupation, or vocation. Incidental religious activity in an otherwise secular position will not be considered primarily religious in nature (i.e. administrative, janitorial, or fundraising activities).
What is the process?
In order to obtain an R-1 visa, the applicant’s employer must first submit an I-129, Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This can sometimes take over five months to process, so it is very important that the prospective employer file as early as possible.
Petitioners who have not had a site visit inspection done in connection with a prior R-1 petition should expect to wait up to one year for an approval.
We work with U.S. employers to counsel them through the intricacies of this process and to ensure that your case is handled correctly, with all the necessary forms and supporting documents.
How do I apply?
Obtaining an R-1 visa can be a complex process for many. If you need assistance with your religious worker case, we have the experience to walk you through the process. Our principal attorney is the immigration counsel for several large religious nonprofit organizations, and she can put that experience to work for you.