A Religious Worker Visa, or R-1 Visa, allows certain workers who belong to religious organizations to enter temporarily in the U.S.  It is basically a type of an employment visa, as the applicant must perform work in their religious field upon entering the U.S.  Immigration laws may often change each year regarding the availability of R-1 Visas. 

Who is Eligible for an R-1 Visa?  What are the Requirements?

R-1 visas are usually issued to professionals or leaders in the religious organization.  This can include priests, ministers, pastors, rabbis, deacons, and other clergy persons. 

To qualify for a Religious Worker Visa, the following eligibility factors must be met:

  • The applicant must have worked for a religious denomination for at least 2 years
  • The religious denomination that they worked for must be a legitimate non-profit organization in the U.S.

This last point is very important- this means that applicants cannot “invent” a religious group or cite a religious group that actually does not exist.  It should be a legally recognized entity in the U.S.

What are Some Other Specifications Associated With R-1 Visas?

R-1 visas frequently allow the religious worker to bring their spouse and or children with them when they relocate to the U.S.  They must usually submit an application for an accompanying visa for their family members who will be travelling with them.  However, the dependants of a religious worker visa generally cannot work in the U.S. (unless they eventually change their status).

Also, while R-1 visas focus on religious work, they may also allow the visa holder to participate in other activities, such as obtaining a religious education.  The visa may also allow them to enter and re-enter the U.S. multiple times during their stay, and they can apply for permanent resident status in the future.  

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Wish to Obtain a Religious Worker Visa?

The process for obtaining a Religious Worker visa is very selective.  If you or a loved one of yours needs assistance with an immigration application, you may wish to contact an experienced immigration lawyer immediately.   An attorney can help explain the laws and policies regarding R-1 visas, and can represent you before a judge if you’re scheduled for an immigration hearing or interview.