How To Obtain A USA R1 Visa For Religious Workers?


The USA R1 visa is for religious workers who intend to work at a religious institution for up to five years. Religious workers who are eligible for this visa can apply for it. The religious organization must be non-profit and can belong to any religious denomination in the US. The term religious denomination refers to a religious community that runs through an ecclesiastical government. Religious institutions that include group financial tax exemptions can also employ foreign religious workers who have an R1 visa.

This article covers important topics such as how to apply for this visa, requirements, how visa extension procedure, and how to get a Green Card under the R1 visa.


What is a US R1 visa?

As mentioned, foreign religious workers can work in religious organizations under this visa. However, not all religious workers can work in these organizations. Administrative and clerical employees are regarded as support staff and cannot apply for an R1 visa. Only people directly involved in religious affairs, such as ministers, can apply for this visa. As long as the visa is valid, holders can live and work in the United States. Other benefits for visa holders include:

  • Receiving a driver’s license
  • Opening a bank account
  • Participation in studying programs
  • Traveling in and out of the US

Holders of R1 visa can also travel to other countries during their stay in the United States to do their work tasks.  There is no annual cap for the issuance of this visa. This means that if you can meet all the requirements to obtain this visa, you can apply and get your visa.


What are the requirements for this visa?

Because an R1 visa is a type of work visa, both the applicant and the religious organization must take steps to obtain it. Keep in mind that there are different religions in the world, but not all are known and registered in the United States. So it is quite evident that the requirements for this visa are a bit complicated.

You as an applicant for R1 visa should consider the following:

  • You must have been part of a religious community for at least the last two years.
  • This religion must have a non-profit organization in the United States.
  • You need to find a job at a non-profit religious organization.
  • Your job position should be directly related to religious duties.
  • You must work part-time in a religious organization for at least 20 hours per week.
  • You cannot do any work other than religious duties.

Religious occupations must be:

  • Related to a traditional religious function.
  • Considered as a religious job within the denomination.
  • Directly involved in religious creed and denomination beliefs.

A religious organization must also have one of the following characteristics:

  • A non-profit religious organization that has its own Internal Revenue Service letter of 501(c)(3)
  • A non-profit religious organization that has a group tax exemption
  • A non-profit organization affiliated with a religion and was given tax exemptions under section 501(c)(3) rules or other Internal Revenue Code as a non-religious organization.

A religious denomination must have the following characteristics:

  • There is a common belief among denomination members
  • The way of worship is similar between them
  • There are common religious services and ceremonies between them
  • They have common places for religious worship or religious congregations
  • There is a formal code of doctrine and discipline
  • They have religious organizations

If the religious institution and organization have the necessary components, the visa application process begins.


How to apply for a USA R1 visa?

To apply for a visa, an employer must submit forms and documents to the US Citizenships and Immigration Services (USCIS). If this organization approves the materials, the applicant can initiate the visa application process.

Steps to be taken by the employer

The employer must first submit Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to the USCIS. The cost of this petition is $ 460, which will be paid by the employer. In addition to this form, the employer must submit the following documents to prove that the applicant is eligible:

  • If the organization is known as IRS 501 (c) (3), it must submit a letter confirming its tax exemption.
  • If the organization has a group tax exemption, it must provide a letter from the IRS to prove this.
  • If the organization is religiously affiliated but not recognized as a religious organization, it must provide the following documents:
  • IRS letter to prove tax exemption
  • Evidence of religious affiliation
  • Materials that explain religious goals and descriptions of duties
  • A letter from a religious organization to prove that this organization has religious affiliations
  • Proof that a religious worker’s welfare and wage status is based on the labor rules:
  • It must be determined that a religious worker’s wages are the same as those who work in similar conditions
  • Worker accommodation must be provided
  • Budget documents which show projected payments for salaries

After the petitioning organization submits the documents and forms, it must wait for a while for USCIS to process the documents. The USCIS may ask additional documents. In most cases, the USCIS visits the premises to determine the organization’s affiliation with a religion. If the USCIS approves the petition, Form I-797C, Notice of Action will be issued to the organization and the applicant. The applicant can then begin the visa application process in their home country.

Steps to be taken by a religious worker:

The R1 visa applicant must go through the following steps:

1. Fill in the Form DS-160

This form is available online and contains questions about your personal information and the purpose of your trip to the United States. After completing and submitting Form DS-160, a confirmation page will be sent to you, which you should keep because you will need it in the next steps.

2. Pay the visa application fee

Since the R1 permission is a petition-based visa, it costs $ 190 to be paid by the worker. Remember to keep the payment receipt because you will have to provide it as part of your documents in the next steps. In some cases, you need to pay for visa issuance, in which its amount varies from country to country.

3. Schedule the visa interview

All applicants for nonimmigrant visas must attend the visa interview. You must schedule an interview. The interview will take place at the US Embassy. As the embassies’ workload is high, arranging your visa interview as soon as possible is better. After setting up the interview, you will receive a confirmation that contains information about the day of the interview.

4. Prepare documents

The applicant for an R1 visa must provide the following documents:

  • Valid passport
  • Applicant photo
  • DS-160 Form confirmation Page
  • Receipts of payments
  • Interview confirmation letter
  • Form I-797
  • Evidence that you have been involved in a religious community for the past two years
  • Contract with a US employer
  • Provide financial evidence or proof that your employer will pay for your expenses in the United States

5. Participate in the interview

On the interview day, the consular officer will ask questions about your background, education, and the reason for traveling to the United States. You have to ensure the consular officer that you will have a job and income in the United States.


How long does it take to assess documents and issue a USA R1 visa?

Obtaining the necessary approvals from USCIS is a time-consuming process. It usually takes six months for USCIS to review and process the required document. If the religious organization has already been approved, the employer can be notified of the visa result within two weeks by paying a fee of about $ 1,225 as premium processing.


How long is an R1 visa valid?

The initial validity of this visa is 30 months. During this period, the visa holder can live and work in the United States. The holder can also renew the visa. USCIS will extend the R1 visa for another 30 months. At the end of this period, visa holders must either return to their home country or apply for permanent residence.


Can R1 visa holders receive a Green Card?

Yes. Religious employees can apply for permanent residency in the following ways:

  • Married to an American citizen
  • Family members living in the United States
  • Change the status of R1 visa to EB-4 Green Card


Can R2 visa holders bring their family members to the United States?

Yes. Unmarried children and spouses under the age of 21 can come to the United States as dependents on an R2 visa. The dependents can apply for their visa at the same time or sometime after the principal visa applicant. R2 visa applicants must provide a birth certificate and marriage certificate to determine their relationship with the primary visa holder.


Let’s sum up …

In this article, we covered issues such as the R1 visa application process, application form, requirements, costs, and processing time. On the Visa Library website, you can learn about other US visas as well as ways to immigrate to other countries. In case you have some experience, please write it down in the comment section. Your comments let the readers choose better and avoid mistakes. Conveying your experiences in comments is a great help for applicants.

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