R1 Visa: Professional Religious Workers

R Visa Overview:

The R-1 visa is a non-immigrant category for a religious worker to perform temporary services on behalf of a religious organization. The individual may be employed and compensated only by the religious organization through whom the status was obtained.

R-2 visa holders are immediate family dependents of R-1 visa holders. They are authorized to attend school but they may not legally obtain employment under the this non-immigrant category.

The following requirements are made part of the R-1 visa regulations:

  • An R-1 worker need not have performed any work on behalf of the religious denomination but must have been a member of the qualifying organization for the immediately preceding two years and must be qualified to perform the duties of a religious worker.
  • There are three categories of religious workers: (a) a minister, priest or rabbi, meaning an individual authorized to conduct religious worship; (b) a religious professional, meaning an individual who has at least a baccalaureate degree which is needed to perform his duties (i.e. director of religious education or a principal of parochial school); (c) a person who works in a religious occupation or vocation which relates to traditional religious functions, meaning the job needs to have religious significance (e.g. a religious instructor or a religious counselor).
  • As per the new R-1 regulations, a petition to the USCIS is always required for an R-1 worker. The applicant may no longer make the application directly to the US consulate, as the R-1 visa now requires prior USCIS approval.
  • The period of admission will be for an initial period of thirty months, with maximum stay not to exceed five years.
  • The letter must be accompanied by a tax-exempt certificate of the organization and evidence of the applicant’s ability to perform the services indicated, such as diplomas, etc.

Spouses and children of the R-1 visa holder may obtain an R2 visa to enter and remain in the US. The R2 visa holder may attend school but if he or she wishes to work, he or she must change his or her status to obtain a work visa.

In summary, the R-1 visa category offers individuals with a religious background and others great opportunities to work and reside in the United States, but the religious occupation must relate to a traditional religious function.

Examples of persons in religious occupations include, but are not limited to:

  • Liturgical workers
  • Religious instructors
  • Religious counselors
  • Cantors
  • Catechists
  • Missionaries
  • Religious translators, or Religious broadcasters

This group does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fund raisers, or persons involved solely in the solicitation of donations.

The Law Offices of Muston & Jack can manage the legal process of obtaining an R-1 visa for the following organizations and individuals:

  • Religious organizations in the United States that wish to bring over members from overseas branches, affiliates, or similar entities to work as Service leaders such as ministers, priests, and pastors as well as religious professionals and religious vocational workers serving a traditional religious function such as religious instructors and missionaries.
  • Members of a religious group having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the U.S. who wish to become employed in a traditional religious capacity by an organization of the same religious denomination in the United States.
“Helping you to obtain the right visa, when you need it”

When you contact our firm for an initial consultation, we will take the time to educate and explain the immigration laws, regulations and the visa application procedures of the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly known as the INS or Immigration and Naturalization Service). As a client, you will work directly with an experienced attorney who will be able to answer any questions you have and keep you informed and aware of new developments as your case moves forward.

For all of your legal immigration needs, contact the immigration lawyers of Muston & Jack, P.C., at our San Jose or Los Angeles California law offices to schedule an initial consultation.

  • Gabriel Jack helped us apply for an O-1 Visa, when we needed to change visa status and we got it! The documentation required for an O-1 visa is extensive but we managed to complete everything together with Gabriel in about 4 weeks. Gabriel is very professional and knows what is important and he is also easy to talk to and helpful. We are very pleased and will use Gabriel again should there be a need.
    Counrty of Origin Thank you -
  • Gabriel did a good job. He was easy to deal with, returned calls and did what he said he would – nice change from some lawyers I’ve dealt with. My E3 was approved with no trouble at all…and he’s a really nice person, which is a good bonus. Thanks Gabe!!
    Counrty of Origin Many Thanks! -
  • We had previously shopped around for an immigration lawyer, but we went with Gabriel. He was very knowledgeable, friendly, and thorough. He was able to help us to prepare a very detailed interview packet, and we got our E2 visa at the end of the interview.
    Counrty of Origin Successful E2 Visa -
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