R-1 Religious Workers


R-1 visa classification is available for foreign religious workers who wish to enter the U.S. temporarily to work in for a qualifying religious organization as a minister, professional or other religious worker.


R-1 classification requires that the petitioner be a bona fide religious organization, that the position qualify as a ministerial, professional or "traditional religious" occupation, or that it fall under a recognized religious vocational classification, that the beneficiary have been a member of the religious organization for at least two years prior to the filing application for R-1 classification, and that the beneficiary be entering the U.S. for activities related to the religious organization.

Application Procedures

This classification does not require an approved petition for employment for foreign nationals applying outside of the U.S. If the foreign religious worker is outside of the U.S., he or she must apply directly at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (Please note: in some cases, the applicant must apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his or her home country. See the Visa Issuance section for more details.)

If the foreign religious worker is inside the U.S. and wishes to change to or extend his or her R-1 Non-immigrant visa status, his or her authorized employer must petition for approval from the USCIS in connection with the underlying petition for employment.

Time Limits

A foreign national may be initially admitted to the U.S. or granted a change of status to R-1 visa classification for up to three years with the option to extend for a total of five years by filing a timely petition for extension of stay with the USCIS. As is the case with all Non-immigrant visa classifications, the duration for which one is allowed to remain in the U.S. in R-1status is governed by the expiration date indicated on the most recently issued I-94 card, except in cases where a non-frivolous extension of stay request has been timely filed. (See How do I know if I am lawfully present in the U.S.? in the FAQ section for more details.)


R-1 Non-immigrant status is an employer-specific work authorized status pursuant to the terms and conditions of the approved petition on which P-1 status was granted.

A foreign national on this visa may be eligible to apply for permanent residency if his/her employer requires his/her services permanently. Please click here for information on employment immigration.

Please note: depending on the religious worker classification sought, the sponsoring denomination's particular religious training requirements and time frames for admission or vows, and the beneficiary's relative progress toward admission or vows at the time he or she first enters R-1 status, an R-1 visa holders may face extremely difficult timing issues when it comes to applying for permanent residency as a special immigrant religious worker. Accordingly, consultation with a licensed immigration attorney is strongly recommended prior to seeking R-1 status, or as early in one's R-1 status as possible.


The spouse and minor children of R-1 visa holders may apply for derivative R-2 visa classification in order to accompany or follow to join the principal visa holder (at the consulate) or to remain in the U.S. with the principal visa holder (through a change of status application with the US CIS). R-2 status is conditioned on maintenance of valid R-1 status by the principal visa holder and dependent eligibility, and does not confer employment authorization.

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