When people come to the United States for religious study or instruction they usually apply for a Religious Worker visa, also known as an R-1 visa. The R-1 visa also allows employees of religious organizations abroad to enter the U.S. temporarily to work in their religious fields.

How Do I Qualify for an R-1 Visa?

To qualify for an R-1 visa, the applicant must have worked for at least 2 years for a religious denomination that has a bona fide non-profit organization in the United States. Additionally, the applicant must be either a minister of a particular religion, working professionally in some religious vocation, or some other religious worker in a religious occupation or vocation.

What Can I Do on an R-1 Visa?

Anyone on an R-1 visa can study full-time in the U.S., receive payment for services rendered to the religious organization, travel freely inside the U.S., leave the country and reenter during the valid period of the visa, and apply for a change in status in order to become a permanent resident.

On an R-1 visa, one can only receive payment from the religious organization they are working for and not from any other source.

The initial maximum period for staying in the U.S. under an R-1 visa is 3 years. However, the stay can be extended.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for an R-1 Visa?

The process for obtaining a Religious Worker visa is very selective.  If you or a loved one needs help with a visa application, you should contact an immigration attorney. An experienced immigration lawyer can tell you the requirements of an R-1 visa and explain the process of obtaining one or any other visas that might be applicable.

A lawyer can also help with obtaining an R-2 visa if you are entering the country on an R-1 visa and wish to bring along your spouse and dependent children.