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R visas

R-1 Visas

The R-1 classification applies to a religious worker . This is an alien coming to the U.S. temporarily to work:

  • As a minister of religion,
  • As a professional in a religious vocation or occupation, or
For a bonafide nonprofit religious organization at the request of the organization, in a religious occupation which relates to a traditional religious function.

The applicant (religious worker) must have been a member of a religious denomination having a nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least the two years immediately prior to the application date. To be eligible, the U.S. petitioning organization must be a nonprofit religious organization granted (or eligible for) tax exempt status, and must demonstrate that it can and will provide for all of the R-1 beneficiary's financial and physical needs. If the alien is outside the U.S., he or she may apply directly to a consulate for an R visa. If visa exempt, the alien may apply at a port of entry. If the alien is inside the U.S., the religious organization may use the I-129 to petition for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment


Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of R-1 workers are entitled to R-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S., but may not be employed under the R-2 classification. Note: Dependents should file for a change of status or extension of stay on Form I-539 (Application to Extend/change Nonimmigrant Status).

Petition Document Requirements

The I-129 petition may be filed by an authorized official of the U.S. organization and must be filed with:

A written statement from an authorized official of the religious organization that will be employing the alien establishing
  • that the alien has been a member of the denomination for the required two years,
  • a description of the proposed position, and that the alien is qualified for the position,
  • the arrangements, if any, for salary, benefits, and other compensation
  • the name and location of the place the alien will provide the services
  • the organization's affiliation with the denomination
  • (note: if the alien is to be employed, the INS requires that this letter be from the organizational unit responsible for maintaining I-9's);
Evidence showing that the religious organization or any affiliate which will engage the alien's services is a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the U.S. and is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

Applying for the Visa:

If the prospective worker (beneficiary) is outside of the country, he must apply for a visa. After the USCIS has approved the I-129 and sent notice to the consulate in the beneficiary's country, the beneficiary must file a visa application with the consulate. Some aliens may be visa exempt. In those cases, the I-129 approval notice is sent to the port of entry (POE) where the beneficiary intends to apply for admission. For specific procedures on Visa Application Procedures, Required Documentation and Visa Ineligibility Waiver, please visit Visa Services at the Department of State.

If the beneficiary is already in the U.S. and is changing from one nonimmigrant status to another, a visa is not required. However, a visa may be required if the beneficiary subsequently leaves the U.S. and wishes to re-enter.