R-1 TEMPORARY NONIMMIGRANT RELIGIOUS WORKERS

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.

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Period of Stay

USCIS may grant R-1 status for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months. Subsequent extensions may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The religious worker’s total period of stay in the United States in R-1 classification cannot exceed five years (60 months). USCIS counts only time spent physically in the United States in valid R-1 status toward the maximum period of stay.

Dual Intent

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.

Notification of Termination of Employment

The petitioner must notify USCIS within 14 days of any change in the nonimmigrant religious worker’s employment. The petitioner must also notify USCIS when the employment is terminated.

Change of Location of Employment

Changes in location of employment may constitute material changes to the terms and conditions of employment as specified in the original approved R-1 petition. If there is a material change in the terms or conditions of employment (or the beneficiary’s eligibility), the petitioner may be required to file an amended petition and receive an approval prior to the beneficiary’s move to a location of employment other than that listed on the original approved R-1 petition.

Green Cards

For information about petitioning for lawful permanent residency for a religious worker, see the “Employment-Based Immigration: Fourth Preference EB-4.”

For more information on R-1 visas, go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

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