R-1, Religious Worker

Nonimmigrant religious workers may enter the U.S. temporarily in R-1 status to work as a Minister, in a Religious Occupation or in a Religious Vocation. Both the sponsoring religious organization and the foreign worker must meet certain requirements.

Petitioner Requirements

The petitioning religious organization must be tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It must also prove that it has the funds with which to compensate the beneficiary, either with salary or other remuneration such as room and board so that the beneficiary will not be forced to resort to unauthorized employment in the U.S. Alternatively, the beneficiary may prove that he will be self-supporting under certain, limited circumstances. The petitioner must also demonstrate that the job offered to the alien meets the regulatory definition of either a Minister, religious occupation or religious vocation. Finally, the position must be either full-time or, if part-time, averaging at least 20 hours per week.

Beneficiary Requirements

The beneficiary must prove that he has maintained membership in the same type of religious denomination of which the petitioner is a member during the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the R-1 petition. In addition, the beneficiary must demonstrate that he is qualified to perform the job duties.

It should be noted that it is the religious organization or its overarching denomination that determines the requirements for the position, and not USCIS. Therefore, the petitioner should provide evidence of the denomination's standards as well as how the individual beneficiary meets them. If the organizations are non-denominational, it should be shown that the two organizations have a similar belief system. 

For example, if the Wesleyan Church wants to bring in a Pastor in R-1 status, it should provide an excerpt from the denominational handbook, The Discipline, setting forth requirements for becoming a Pastor. It should also provide proof that the beneficiary has completed those steps to attain a ministerial license or ordination.

R-1 status can be issued for a period of up to 5 years total, with the initial petition approvable for a period of 30 months with eligibility for an additional 30 month renewal period.

The spouse and unmarried children under age 21 of an R-1 beneficiary may be given R-2 status as dependents. R-2 nonimmigrants are not authorized to work in the United States.


Check out our latest blog posts on R-1, Religious Workers: 

Options available to R-1 Religious Workers following the EB-4 Visa Bulletin Retrogression

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