Religious Worker Visas

An R-1 visa allows a foreign national who is employed at least part time (a minimum of 20 hours per week) in a ministerial role or a religious vocation to live and work in the U.S. for up to five years. The employer must be a nonprofit religious organization in the United States or an organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.

The immigration attorneys at Salaman / Henry in Philadelphia assist individuals and religious organizations in petitioning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an R-1 visa. Both the religious worker and the religious organization the individual will be employed by must meet certain requirements. These include:

  • Evidence that the religious worker has been a member of a religious denomination that has had a nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years prior to filing for the visa
  • Evidence that the visa applicant performs a religious occupation, such as priest, rabbi, minister or cantor, worker in a religious hospital, religious translator or religious broadcaster
  • Proof that the organization is recognized in the U.S. as a bona fide tax-exempt organization
  • If the religious worker will be working as a minister, proof that the individual has been ordained or otherwise completed all of the necessary theological education at an accredited theological institution recognized by the denomination
  • Proof that the religious worker will receive salary or nonsalaried compensation, or, in if the worker will be self-sufficient, evidence that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work

Length Of Stay And Bringing Family

USCIS may grant R-1 status for up to 30 months, with a possible extension of an additional 30 months. The religious worker's total stay in the United States in R-1 classification cannot exceed five years.

A religious worker's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for admission to the U.S. during the same time period the worker is in the U.S. under R-2 classification. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to work in the U.S.

Obtaining an R-1 visa can be the initial step for a religious worker to obtain a green card allowing for lawful permanent residency in the U.S. Of course, a religious worker has the option to apply for a green card instead of an R-1 visa. However, an R-1 visa may allow the religious worker to relocate to the U.S. sooner and then he or she can pursue a green card.

Our experienced employment-based immigration lawyers can answer your questions and recommend the best course of action during a free consultation. Call 215-789-9405 or use the online contact form on this website to schedule a meeting. We work with clients in Greater Philadelphia and throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as New Jersey, New York and Delaware.