An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.
Requirements for R-1 Visa
To qualify for the R-1 visa, 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 2 years immediately before the filing of the petition.
A prospective or existing U.S. employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of an R-1 worker. An R-1 visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior USCIS approval of Form I-129. Visa exempt workers must present the original approval notice of I-129 R petition at a port of entry as evidence of an approved R-1 visa petition.
Supporting Documents Required for the Religions Organization
- Proof that the sponsoring religious organization is tax-exempt under the IRS 501(c)(3);
- Verifiable evidence showing how the organization will compensate the religious worker, including salaried or non-salaried compensation;
- If the religious worker will be self-supporting:
o Documents that show the religious worker will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination
o Evidence showing that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work in which:
- Compensated or uncompensated foreign workers previously held R-1 status;
- Missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated;
- The organization provides formal training for missionaries; and
- Participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination.
o Evidence showing that the organization’s religious denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad;
o Evidence of the religious worker’s acceptance into the missionary program; and
o Evidence of the duties and responsibilities associated with this traditionally uncompensated missionary work
- Copies of the religious worker’s bank records or budgets documenting the sources of self-support. This may include, but is not limited to, personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination’s churches, or other verifiable evidence
Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Worker
- Proof of membership: Evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of Form I-129;
- If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide:
o A copy of the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents
o Documents showing acceptance of the religious worker’s qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that he or she completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination. Include transcripts, curriculum, and documentation that establishes that the theological institution is accredited by the denomination
o If the denomination does not require a prescribed theological education, provide:
- The religious denomination’s requirements for ordination to minister;
- A list of duties performed by virtue of ordination;
- The denomination’s levels of ordination, if any; and
- Evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination
- Proof of previous R-1 employment (for extension of stay as an R-1)