Employment-Based Petition via a Temporary Religious Worker Visa (R-1 Visa)


Nonimmigrant Visas


A Temporary Religious Worker Visa, also known as an ‘R-1 Visa’, is a nonimmigrant visa issued to Migrants who have proven intent to enter the United States to temporarily work in a religious occupation. Generally, the most common religious occupations include priests, ministers, nuns and/or other religious vocations.

The Petitioner, a religious entity, and the Migrant, R-1 Visa Applicant, must provide substantial evidence to satisfy the R-1 category requirements. The Petitioner must generally prove that it is a non-profit religious organization or an organization affiliated with a religious denomination. In both cases, the organization must prove that it is exempt from federal tax requirements and has a valid determination from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirming that status. Additionally, organizations affiliated with a religious denomination must prove that they are closely associated with the religious denomination. The Migrant must also provide evidence of membership in the same religious denomination for a least two (2) years prior to the filing of the Nonimmigrant Worker Application. Additionally, the Migrant must provide evidence of being legally ordained or have completed the required religious education to service the organization.

The religious entity must generally declare if the Migrant will be monetarily compensated for the work performed in the United States. The Migrant is anticipated to work at least twenty (20) hours per week to meet the requirements as a part-time occupation. The burden of proof falls on the religious entity to provide evidence that it has the financial means and available funds to provide the Migrant with the agreed financial compensation. The religious entity may also provide additional compensation support associated with room and board, medical care, and transportation. If the work to be performed is non-compensational, the religious entity must generally provide evidence that the work is under a missionary program.

R-1 visas are nonimmigrant visas and are generally issued by the U.S. Consulate for the intent to enter the United States to temporarily work in the religious field. R-1 visas may be granted for up to thirty (30) months from the time of admission to the United States. It is important that the Migrant keep a record of the I-94 Card Arrival/Departure Record, as it verifies the official date of admission. The Migrant may apply for an additional thirty (30) months stay while residing in the United States. However, the Migrant may not exceed any time that is not granted and/or approved by the U.S. Consulate. Overstaying more than the allocated time under any nonimmigrant visa may potentially lead to serious legal consequences.

The Migrant must generally provide evidence of intent to depart the United States. Supporting evidence may include copies of the Migrant’s assets and/or family ties in the country of origin. Evidence in support of intent to depart also include ownership of properties, bank statements, future employment offers, school enrollment records for either the Migrant and/or dependents, etc. The evidence provided must be from the migrant’s country of origin and any documentation in any foreign language must be accompanied by an English translation.

R-1 visas cannot be self-filed, the Migrant must have a prospective U.S. organization file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker along with the R-1 Classification Supplement with U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS). USCIS will review the submitted application and supporting documentation.

In the event that USCIS approves the Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, the U.S. organization will receive a Notice of Action. This notice verifies approval and the date of its approval. It is important that the U.S. employer inform USCIS of any address changes, so that any notice is properly received. USCIS will then transfer the case to the Department of State National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will contact the U.S. employer and the Migrant to inform of the necessary forms and/or supplemental documentation needed to schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consular office abroad. Typically, for an R-1 visa classification the NVC requires the electronic submission of a Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) prior to the scheduled interview. A U.S. Consulate officer will generally adjudicate the case and either grant or deny the Migrant’s R-1 visa status.

It is important for the Migrant to understand that there may be an associated fee for scheduling an interviewing at a U.S. embassy or consular office abroad and for the adjudication of the R-1 visa process. This fee is established by the Department of State and should not be mistaken with USCIS filing fees associated with the Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.


The filing of a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker does not grant any Migrant lawful status in the United States. However, successful navigation of all phases of an R-1 visa process and approval at a U.S. embassy or consular office abroad, will grant the Migrant lawful entry to the United States for a period of thirty (30) months with the intent to work in a religious organization.

Derivative Dependents

A Migrant may include dependents, spouse and/or minor children (unmarried and under 21 years of age), as part of the Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. If approved, the Migrant’s dependents will be eligible for a R-2 visa category. Although, temporary status may also be granted to derivative dependents, work under this visa category is not permitted.

Process Description

There are several stages to the R-1 visa process and timeframes vary depending on the agencies’ internal policies for handling R-1 visa petitions and filing requirements. Migrants may visit USCIS’ webpage and use USCIS tools and resources to obtain up-to-date case processing times.

Unfortunately, the process to schedule and interview and submit all required documentation for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consular office abroad U.S. Consulate may vary immensely. Time frames depend solely on the consulates’ availability. Migrants may visit the Department of State’s webpage and use the tools and resources associated with an Appointment Wait Time to obtain estimated wait times for a nonimmigrant visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consular office abroad.

Unfavorable Circumstances

For some individuals, immigration is a complex process to navigate through due to the strict requirements and interpretation of the law. The religious worker visa process can have complications as the burden of proof lies heavily on the prospective U.S. organization interested in sponsoring a Migrant.

USCIS requires that the U.S. organization provide specific evidence to establish themselves as a religious entity. In addition, the religious entity must be willing to provide financial documentation and tax exemption information. Failure to submit the proper and required documentation may negatively impact the Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and result in its denial.

Although the Migrant’s past or present criminal history is not examined during the initial filing of Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, it may negatively impact the consular processing and/or extension requests. Migrants with felony convictions or significant misdemeanor convictions may not be eligible for an R-1 visa status. It is best to consult with a licensed attorney and/or an accredited legal representative to confirm eligibility by either the prospective U.S. organization and/or Migrant prior to initiating the R-1 visa process. A licensed attorney may be able to assess the circumstances accordingly to the law, criminal bars, and restrictions to confirm best course of action.

Relevant Links List

Name Description Website
USCIS R-1 Nonimmigrant Religious Workers Website contains additional information regarding U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) R-1 visas for religious workers. https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/temporary-workers/r-1-nonimmigrant-religious-workers
USCIS R-1 Visa Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers Website contains additional information regarding U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) R-1 visas for religious workers. https://www.uscis.gov/forms/explore-my-options/r-1-visa-temporary-nonimmigrant-religious-workers


A Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker is processed and adjudicated under strict eligibility. Certain relevant laws and regulations are specified under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and/or U.S. Code. Some of the applicable laws and regulations include:

Citations List

Citations Description Section Title
8 CFR § 214.2 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) establishes regulations imposed by the Federal Government of the United States. Special Requirements for Admission, Extension, and Maintenance of Status
INA § 101 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is a federal law that establishes immigration, naturalization, and exclusion of aliens. Definitions


Related Forms List

Name Description No. Fee
Change of Address with USCIS A Change of Address form must be filed electronically with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). AR-11 $0
Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker A Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker should be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the purpose of employing a foreign professional workers in specialty occupations. I-129 $460

Supporting Documents

A Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker must generally be supported by substantial documentation from the religious entity and Migrant to establish eligibility under R-1 category. Some of the required supporting documentation from the religious entity may include:

Supporting Documents List

Name Description
Certificate of Ordination
Employer Documentation of Religious Nature and Purpose
Employer Financial Support
Employer IRS Determination Letter
Employer Religious Activities and Events
Employer Religious Denomination
Evidence of Intend to Return
Evidence of Membership In A Religious Denomination
Evidence of Theological Education
Passport-Style Photographs Passport-styles photographs must comply with USCIS' requirements related to sizing, position, and color.
Personal Documentation Personal documentation must be submitted to verify the Sponsor's and Migrant's identity. Personal documentation includes birth certificates, passport biographical pages, identification IDs. All documentation must be in compliance with the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs which requirements vary by country.
Proof of Previous Marriage(s) Termination