The USA R1 or religious worker 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 an R1 visa, requirements, how visa extension procedure, and how to get a Green Card under the R1 visa.

What is a US R1 visa (religious worker visa)?

As mentioned, foreign religious workers can work in religious organizations under an R1 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 an R1 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 visas 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 an R1 visa, you can apply and get your R1 visa.

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What are the religious worker visa or R1 visa requirements?

Because an R1 visa is a type of work visa, both the applicant and the religious organization must take steps to obtain it. The religious visa requirements can change for each employee.

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 an R1 visa are a bit complicated.

There is a general setlist of R1 visa-required documents. You can get familiar with them as follows;

You, as an applicant for an 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.

The religious visa requirements could change for each applicant.

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Religious worker visa or R1 visa application process

To apply for a visa, an employer must submit forms and documents to the US Citizenship 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 are 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 that 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 for 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, a Notice of Action will be issued to the organization and the applicant. The applicant can then begin the R1 visa application process in their home country.

You might have to provide further R1 visa-required documents.

Steps to be taken by a religious worker visa:

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. It is the R1 visa application form you need to complete.

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, which 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 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.

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How long does it take to assess documents and issue an R1 visa religious worker 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 an R1 visa premium processing fee of about $ 1,225 as premium processing.

How long is a religious visa or 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 you change the R1 visa to a Green card?

Yes. You can convert a religious worker visa or R1 visa to a Green card. 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 the R1 visa to EB-4 Green Card

You need to be eligible to change the R1 visa to a Green card.

R1 visa to the green card processing time

The processing time for an R1 visa to a green card is up to the way you apply for the green card, whether it is through marrying a US citizen or changing your visa to an EB-4. The processing time could vary for each way you apply for permanent residency.

The USCIS indicates that the standard processing time is 90 days, but you might have to wait a bit longer so your green card gets issued.

R1 visa processing time could change in each case as well.

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.

R1 visa processing time 2022

The average R1 visa processing time is about six months as the USCIS needs to visit the premises of the organization and then respond to whether they issue the religious worker visa or not. It could take another two or three months for the USCIS to work on the visa application and issue the visa. Overall, you might have to wait for up to nine months to receive your visa.

But you can take advantage of the premium processing service. It costs you about $1,225, and you will receive a response sooner in about two weeks.

You can use the R1 visa premium processing service if you pay the fee. Ask the US immigration service if they provide the service in your home country or not.

R1 visa extension processing time

As explained, you can extend the R visa. The initial validity of the visa is 30 months, and the US immigration officials permit you to extend it for another 30 months. The processing time is different when you want to extend your visa, but you would better apply as early as possible to avoid any delays and consequences.

R1 visa extension

If you are wondering about the R1 visa renewal during the application process or before receiving your visa, you are allowed to extend an R1 visa if you have obeyed the national law. The initial validity of the R1 visa is 30 months, but you have the authorization to extend it for another 30 months.

You would better apply as early as possible to extend your religious worker visa.

The point to remember is that the overall validity of the R1 visa is 5 years, and you can not stay in the US under the religious worker visa for longer than 60 months. You need to apply for a new program or change to a green card.

R1 visa cost or fee

The worker who applies for an R1 visa needs to pay $190, and the employer needs to pay $460 to file petition Form I-129. There might be other costs and fees by the country you apply from.

When you pay the fees, keep the receipt, as you need to prove that you have paid the processing fees late in the application process.

Let’s sum up …

In this article, we covered issues such as the R1 visa or religious worker 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.


Yes, you may travel freely in and out of the US.

Yes, if you are eligible and stay for two years in the US.

The first validity is 30 years, you can extend it for another 30 but not more than 60 months.

No, there is no such quota on an R1 visa.

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  1. Aurora says:

    It’s taking us 2years and still not received visa. What can we do?