R-1 Visa

Having helped several R-1 applicants enter the U.S. over the years, we ensure that all the documents are filed correctly and at the right time. You can contact our immigration lawyers today.

What is an R-1 visa?

An R-1 beneficiary is a nonimmigrant foreign national who is temporarily coming to the U.S. to work at least part-time (an average of at least 20 hours per week) as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation and be employed by a:

  • Non-profit religious organization in the U.S.;
  • A religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
  • Non-profit organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.

To qualify, you must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing the petition.


The beneficiary will be eligible to be classified as an R-1 nonimmigrant if he/she:

  • Will be employed by a nonprofit religious organization or a nonprofit organization which is affiliated with a religious organization in the United States;
  • Has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing the petition;
  • Will work in the United States in at least a part-time position (an average of at least 20 hours per week);
  • Is a minister or will be working in a religious vocation or occupation;
  • Will work for the employer who files the petition to classify you as an R-1 nonimmigrant; and
  • Will not work in any other capacity except as a religious worker.

In case you have any doubts about the eligibility requirements, our immigration lawyers can help you get clarity on any of the points that might apply to your case.

R-1 Visa Application Process

A prospective or existing U.S. employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the foreign national intending to enter the U.S. as a nonimmigrant minister or a religious worker in a religious vocation or occupation.

The petitioner must include evidence of eligibility for the classification sought. In addition, both the petitioning organization and the religious worker must satisfy certain requirements of the USCIS Policy Manual.
If a petitioner believes that one of these requirements substantially burdens the organization’s exercise of religion, they may apply for an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

To know more about the requirements, you can reach out to the immigration lawyers at the Law Office Of Prashanthi Reddy.

A written request for the exemption should accompany the initial filing, and it must explain how the provision:

  • Requires participation in an activity prohibited by a sincerely held religious belief; or
  • Prevents participation in conduct motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.

The petitioner bears the burden of showing that it qualifies for an RFRA exemption and must support the request with relevant documentation. We will decide exemption requests on a case-by-case basis. It is crucial that the beneficiary provides a duplicate copy of Form I-129 and all supporting documents. Failure to submit duplicate copies may result in a delay in the issuance of a nonimmigrant visa abroad from the U.S. Department of State.

Having helped several R-1 applicants enter the U.S. over the years, we ensure that all the documents are filed correctly and at the right time. You can contact our immigration lawyers today.

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Other Type Of Work Visa

Documentation and Evidence

General Evidence Required

An R-1 petitioner is required to provide the following documentation and evidence to show the petitioner is a qualifying religious organization:

  • A properly completed current version of the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) and R-1 Classification Supplement;
  • A currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is a tax-exempt organization; and
  • Verifiable evidence of how the petitioner intends to compensate the beneficiary, including whether or not the beneficiary will be self-supporting.

Additional Evidence Required – Group Tax-Exempt Religious Organizations

In addition to the general evidence requirements, a group tax-exempt religious organization is required to provide evidence that it is included under the group exemption granted to a parent organization. USCIS also requires evidence that the parent organization has authorized the petitioning entity to use its tax-exempt status.

Furthermore, an organization whose IRS determination letter does not identify its tax exemption as a religious organization must establish its religious nature and purpose. Such evidence may include the entity’s articles of incorporation or bylaws, flyers, articles, brochures, or other literature that describes the religious purpose and nature of the organization.

Additional Evidence Required – Organization Affiliated with Religious Denomination

In addition to the general evidence requirements, a bona fide organization that is affiliated with the religious denomination is also required to submit a Religious Denomination Certification signed by an authorized official of the religious denomination, certifying that the petitioning organization is affiliated with the religious denomination. If the affiliated organization was granted tax-exempt status under IRC 501(c)(3) under a category other than religious organization, in addition to the general requirements, the petitioner must also provide:


  • Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization, such as a copy of the organizing instrument of the organization that specifies the purposes of the organization; and
  • Organizational literature, such as books, articles, brochures, calendars, flyers, and other literature describing the religious purpose and nature of the activities of the organization.

The petitioner must provide information and specifically attest to the following (in addition to attesting that it is a qualifying R-1 employer):


  • The number of members of the petitioning employer’s organization;
  • The number of employees who work at the same location where the religious worker will be employed, and a summary of those employees’ responsibilities;
  • The number of religious workers holding special immigrant religious worker status or R-1 nonimmigrant status currently employed or employed within the past 5 years by the petitioning employer’s organization;
  • The number of special immigrant religious worker and R-1 nonimmigrant petitions and applications filed by or on behalf of any religious workers for employment by the petitioning employer in the past 5 years;
  • The title of the position offered to the beneficiary;
  • Detailed description of the beneficiary’s proposed daily duties;
  • The particulars of the salaried or non-salaried compensation or self-support for the position;
  • A statement that beneficiary will be employed at least 20 hours per week;
  • The specific location(s) of employment;
  • The beneficiary will not be engaged in secular employment;
  • The beneficiary is qualified to perform the duties of the offered position; and
  • The beneficiary has been a member of the denomination for at least 2 years.


On-Site Inspections

USCIS may conduct a pre-approval inspection. In that case, successfully completing the inspection will be a condition for USCIS to approve the petition.The religious organization must provide the physical address where the beneficiary will work for the USCIS to conduct a pre-approval site inspection. In addition, the USCIS can –

  • Inspect the beneficiary’s work location after adjudicating the form to verify work hours, compensation, and duties.
  • Complete a post-adjudication inspection in cases of suspected fraud or where the petitioning entity has undergone substantial changes since its last filing.
  • Closely monitor the site visit program to ensure it does not cause undue delays in the adjudication process.


Period of Stay

The USCIS may grant R-1 status for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months and subsequent extensions for up to an additional 30 months. The beneficiary’s total period of stay in the U.S. under the R-1 classification cannot exceed five years (60 months).

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 based on a filed or an approved permanent labor certification application or 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. However, an R-2 dependent is not authorized to work based on this visa classification.

Notification of Termination of Employment

The petitioner must notify the USCIS within 14 days of any change in the nonimmigrant religious worker’s employment. For the religious worker to change employers, the new petitioner must file a new Form I-129, attestation, and supporting evidence.

Change of Location of Employment

A change in employment location may constitute a material change 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 approval before the beneficiary’s move to a new location of employment.If it is anticipated that beneficiaries will be moved between different locations within a larger organization, that organization should file the petition. For example, a minister may move from ministry to ministry within a denomination, including at a different or additional unit of the religious denomination if the petitioning organization oversees all of these locations.

The comprehensive R-1 visa application can be best handled by experienced immigration lawyers like the Law Office Of Prashanthi Reddy, PLLC, New York. We have 20+ years of experience in processing R-1 visa applications and can help you in your application process. Because of our experience in this field, we are able to anticipate problems and find solutions. Reach out to the Law Offices of Prashanthi Reddy, PLLC, at prashanthi@reddyesq.com or call us at 212-354-1010.


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