R-1 Religious Visa


A R-1 visa is a type of visa for people who are seeking to enter the United States to work in a religious capacity on a temporary basis as it is defined in The immigration and Nationality Act. Religious workers include people who are cleared by a recognized entity to conduct religious worship and undertake duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion. The visas also can be used by workers engaging in a religious vocation or occupation.

In order to be qualified as a religious worker you must be a member of your denomination for two years immediately prior to your application for religious worker status. You must be planning to work as a minister of your denomination, or in a religious occupation vocation for an approved nonprofit religious organization. If you’ve spent five years with this church, you must have resided and been physically present outside of the U.S. for the year before the application.

Although you don’t have to prove that you have a residence abroad that you have no intention of abandoning, you must intend to leave the United States at the end of your visa’s expiration date. Prior to applying for a visa, your church must file an I-129 petition for a non-immigrant worker for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services. Once the petition is approved, you must complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application DS-160 form. You must pay the visa application fee. After the application fee has been submitted, you need to schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy. You must submit a complete application and go through an entire interview in order to be approved for a visa.

This visa should only be used by people who are genuinely interested in coming to the United States for the purpose of spreading religion

A temporary religious worker must:

  • Be a member of the same religious denomination as the religious organization they plan to work for in the US for at least two years before the organization petitions them to come to the US
  • Be coming to the US to work as a minister, religious vocation or occupation in the United States
  • Be employed by a non-profit religious organization in the United States or an organization affiliated with the religious denomination of the United States
  • Work at least part time or at least 20 hours a week

A Visitor B visa can be used for temporary religious activity if the activity is:

  • An evangelical tour without making an appointment with any one church
  • Exchanging pulpits temporarily with US counterparts
  • Performing missionary or voluntary service for a denomination such as to aid the elderly or needy

A completed online Non-immigrant Visa Application Form is required as part of the application. After the application is submitted, you will then need to digitally sign and submit the form. Next, an interview will need to be scheduled. For a typical visa interview, you will need to provide the following documentation at the time of the interview:

An approval of the petition by USCIS does not guarantee visa issuance so, it’s important that a person does not make final tvel plans before an actual visa is issued. A visa is valid until its expiration date unless it is canceled or revoked. A valid US visa in an expired passport is still considered valid. Never remove a valid visa from an expired passport or you will be unable to travel.