An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed as a minister or in another religious vocation or occupation at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by:
- A non-profit religious organization in the United States;
- A religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
- A non-profit religious organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.
This visa program is intended for religious workers whose lives are dedicated to religious practices and functions, as distinguished from secular members of the religion.
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 two years immediately before the filing of the petition.
Nonimmigrant religious workers must maintain the intent to depart the United States when their nonimmigrant stay expires. At the same time, USCIS may not deny a nonimmigrant petition, application for initial admission, change of status, or extension of stay in R classification solely on the basis of a filed or an approved permanent labor certification application or a filed or approved immigrant visa petition.
Family of R-1 Visa Holders
An R-1 religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to accept employment based on this visa classification.
B-1 Visa Holders
Members of religious denominations seeking temporary admission to the United States for brief periods may be eligible to be admitted as B-1 business visitors if their activities are allowed under the B-1 nonimmigrant visitor category. Additionally, missionaries who do not otherwise qualify for R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker classification may be allowed to enter the United States as B-1 business visitors.