GREATHOUSE LAW FIRM
Immigration and Nationality
R1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

For those who wish to enter the United States to perform certain religious work, they may apply for an R1 visa for Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers.  The R1 visa allows an individual to come to the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.

A Religious Worker may be granted an initial period of R1 admission for up to 30 months.  The total time that a Religious Worker may spend in the United States is 5 years.  A Religious Worker's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R2 status.  The dependents of an R1 worker may not accept employment while in the United States in R2 status.

Eligibility Criteria


To qualify, the foreign national must have been 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 the petition.

The prospective employer must file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the religious worker.  If the USCIS approves the petition, the religious worker then applies for a visa stamp to be placed in his or her passport at a U.S. consular post.

The immigration laws requires specific documentation to be submitted with the petition. Generally, the sponsoring organization must provide the following:

Proof of tax-exempt status , which is either the organization's currently valid individual IRS 501(c)(3) letter, or IRS group tax-exemption ruling ;
Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization;
Organizational literature;
A religious denomination certification ;
Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation .
If the religious worker will be self-supporting, the religious organization must submit documentation that establishes 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.

The petition must also include documentation showing the Religious Worker's Eligibility, including:

Proof 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  before the petition filing .
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.
If the Religious Worker will not receive a salary, he or she must provide verifiable documentation showing how financial support will be maintained.

Green Card

An R1 Religious Worker may be able to pursue permanent resident status under the "Employment-Based Immigration Fourth Preference EB-4" classification.
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