R-1 Religious Worker Visas

Religious ministers or workers may qualify for the religious worker classification R visa if, for the two years immediately preceding the time of application, they have been a member of a religious denomination which has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States. Bona fide religious organizations in the United States must have tax exempt status as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

Persons seeking R status must plan to enter the United States solely to:

  • Carry on the vocation of a minister of the religious denomination; or
  • Work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation or organization within the denomination; or
  • Work in a religious vocation or occupation for an organization within the denomination, or for a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination. Bona fide religious organizations in the United States must have tax exempt status as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

The initial admission period for ministers and religious workers entering the United States in R status is limited to 30 months. Extensions may be granted for a total stay not to exceed five years. From December 1, 2008, the employment be approved in advance by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States on the basis of a petition, form I-129R filed by the United States employer, before the Minister of Religion or Religious Worker applies for the visa at the Embassy or Consulate. If an R petition has been approved the beneficiary is required to apply for an R-1 Religious Worker Visa before traveling to the United States.