Religious workers include persons authorized, by a recognized employing entity, to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion, and workers engaging in a religious vocation or occupation.
- The applicant must be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S.;
- The religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, are either exempt from taxation or qualifies for tax-exempt status; and
- The applicant has been a member of the denomination for two years immediately preceding applying for religious worker status. The applicant is planning to work as a minister of that denomination, or in a religious occupation or vocation for a bona fide, non-profit religious organization (or a tax-exempt affiliate of such an organization). There is no requirement that individuals applying for “R” visas have a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning. However, they must intend to depart the U.S. at the end of their lawful status, absent specific indications or evidence to the contrary. The applicant has resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for the immediate prior year, if he or she has previously spent five years in this category.
Every petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by a prospective or existing U.S. employer through the filing of a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. An R-1 visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval of Form I-129 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the foreign national is visa-exempt (e.g. Canadian), he or she must present the original Form I-797, Notice of Action, reflecting an approval of a valid I-129 R petition at a port of entry.
Important Note: Visa applicants must bring the approved I-129 petition receipt number to the interview, so that petition approval can be verified.
There are certain general requirements which must be satisfied by the petitioning organization as well as by the religious worker, the beneficiary of the petition. These requirements are listed in the chart below.
The petitioning employer must submit Form I-129 including the R-1 Classification Supplement signed by the employer as well as the following supporting documents:
Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Organization
Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Worker
|Proof of tax-exempt status
· If the religious organization has its own individual IRS 501(c)(3) letter, provide a currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is a tax-exempt organization
· If the organization is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax-exemption, provide a group ruling
· If the organization is affiliated with the religious denomination, provide:
A currently valid determination letter from the IRS;
Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization;
Organizational literature; and
A religious denomination certification, which is part of the R-1 Classification Supplement to Form I-129 (see the links to the right).
Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation
· Verifiable evidence of how the organization intends to compensate the religious worker, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation. Evidence of compensation may include:
Past evidence of compensation for similar positions
Budgets showing monies set aside for salaries, leases, etc.
Evidence that room and board will be provided to the religious worker
If IRS documentation, such as IRS Form W-2 or certified tax returns, is available, it must be provided
If IRS documentation is not available, an explanation for its absence must be provided, along with comparable, verifiable documentation
If the religious worker will be self-supporting
· Documents that establish the religious worker will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination
· Evidence that establishes that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work in which:
Foreign workers, whether compensated or uncompensated, have previously participated in R-1 status;
Missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated;
The organization provides formal training for missionaries; and
Participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination.
· Evidence that establishes that the organization’s religious denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad
· Evidence of the religious worker’s acceptance into the missionary program
· Evidence of the duties and responsibilities associated with this traditionally uncompensated missionary work
· Copies of the religious worker’s bank records, budgets documenting the sources of self-support (including personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination’s churches), or other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS
|Proof of membership
· Evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of Form I-129
If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide:
· A copy of the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents
· Documents reflecting acceptance of the religious worker’s qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the religious worker has completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination. Include transcripts, curriculum, and documentation that establishes that the theological institution is accredited by the denomination
· If the denominations do not require a prescribed theological education, provide:
The religious denomination’s requirements for ordination to minister
A list of duties performed by virtue of ordination
The denomination’s levels of ordination, if any, and
Evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination
Proof of previous R-1 employment (for extension of stay as an R-1)
· If you received salaried compensation, provide IRS documentation that you received a salary, such as an IRS Form W-2 or certified copies of filed income tax returns reflecting such work and compensation for the previous R-1 employment
· If you received non-salaried compensation:
If IRS documentation is available, provide IRS documentation of the non-salaried compensation
If IRS documentation is not available, provide an explanation for the absence of IRS documentation and verifiable evidence of all financial support, including stipends, room and board, or other support for you with a description of the location where you lived, a lease to establish where you lived, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS
· If you received no salary but provided for your own support and that of any dependents, provide verifiable documents to show how support was maintained, such as audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS
Period of Stay
An R-1 status may be granted for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months. An extension of an R-1 status may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The total stay in the United States in an R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months (5 years).
Family of R-1 Visa Holders
R-1 worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. The dependents of an R-1 worker may not accept employment while in the United States in R-2 status.