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R-1 (Religious Workers)

Religious worker visas allow foreign ministers and professional and other religious workers to enter the U.S. temporarily. To qualify for an R visa, the applicant must be:

  • A minister;
  • A person working in a professional capacity in a religious occupation or vocation; or
  • A person who works for a religious organization or an affiliate in a religious occupation who has been a member of the religious group for at least the two years immediately preceding the application; and
  • The individual must be coming to work for a bona fide tax exempt religious organization.

How is affiliated “religion” defined?

A religious denomination is defined as a religious group that has some form of organized statement of faith, common belief system and similar ecclesiastical governing structure. The affiliated groups should have a common set of religious guidelines, perform their religious ceremonies in similar ways, use the same set of ministerial materials such as hymnbooks and worship guides and have congregations.

Does anyone who works for a denomination qualify?

A religious occupation is an activity relating to “traditional religious functions.” This would include religious counselors, cantors, liturgical ministers and workers, religious hospital and health care workers, missionaries, religious translators and broadcasters. It would not include individuals who work for the denomination in a non-religious capacity.

It would also include anyone who is in a religious vocation, defined as someone called to religious life and service. This must be shown through demonstrated commitment to the denomination, the taking of vows and other types of life commitments. This would include nuns, monks, brothers, and deacons.

How long can I have R status?

The maximum stay in R-1 status is 5 years. A person can obtain R-1 status again after remaining outside the U.S. for one year before making another application.

What visa status would the spouse and children of an R-1 nonimmigrant receive?

Spouses and children of R-1 nonimmigrants and classified as R-2. They are not permitted to work in R-2 status.


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