R1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers
An R-1 is for foreign nationals coming to the U.S. temporarily to be employed at least 20 hours a week by a non-profit religious organization in the U.S. (or an organization affiliated with the religious denomination in the U.S.) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.
To qualify, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
Every petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by a prospective or existing U.S. employer through the filing of a petition for nonimmigrant worker. An R-1 visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There are general requirements which must be satisfied by the petitioning organization as well as by the religious worker. These requirements are listed in the chart below.
Supporting Documents for the Religious Organization
Proof of tax-exempt status: if the religious organization has its own individual IRS 501(c)(3) letter, provide a currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is a tax-exempt organization. If the organization is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax-exemption, provide a group ruling. If the organization is affiliated with the religious denomination, provide (a) a currently valid determination letter from the IRS; (b) documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization; (c) organizational literature; and (d) a religious denomination certification.
Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation
Verifiable evidence of how the organization intends to compensate the religious worker, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation. Evidence of compensation may include: past evidence of compensation for similar positions; budgets showing monies set aside for salaries, leases, etc.; evidence that room and board will be provided to the religious worker; if IRS documentation, such as IRS Form W-2 or certified tax returns, is available, it must be provided and if IRS documentation is not available, an explanation for its absence must be provided, along with comparable, verifiable documentation.
If the religious worker will be self-supporting
Supporting Documents for the Religious Worker
- Documents that establish the religious worker will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination
- Evidence that establishes that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work
- Evidence that establishes that the organization’s religious denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad
- Evidence of the religious worker’s acceptance into the missionary program
- Evidence of the duties and responsibilities associated with this traditionally uncompensated missionary work
- Copies of the religious worker’s bank records, budgets documenting the sources of self-support, or other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS.
Proof of membership: evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide a copy of the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents; documents reflecting acceptance of the religious worker’s qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the religious worker has completed any course of prescribed theological education; and if the denominations do not require a prescribed theological education, provide the religious denomination’s requirements for ordination to minister.
Proof of previous R-1 employment (for extension of stay as an R-1): If you received salaried compensation, provide IRS documentation that you received a salary, such as an IRS Form W-2 or certified copies of filed income tax returns reflecting such work and compensation for the previous R-1 employment; or if you received non-salaried compensation If IRS documentation is available, provide IRS documentation of the non-salaried compensation; If IRS documentation is not available, provide an explanation for the absence of IRS documentation and verifiable evidence of all financial support, including stipends, room and board, or other support for you with a description of the location where you lived, a lease to establish where you lived, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS
If you received no salary but provided for your own support and that of any dependents, provide verifiable documents to show how support was maintained, such as audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS
Period of Stay
An R-1 status may be granted for an initial period of admission for up to 2.5 years. An extension of an R-1 status may be granted for up to an additional 2.5 years. The total stay in the U.S. in R-1 status cannot exceed 5 years.
Family of R-1 Visa Holders
R-1 worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. The dependents of an R-1 worker may not accept employment while in the United States in R-2 status.