Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers
An R-1 is a foreign national coming to the United States to be temporarily employed as a minister or in another religious vocation at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week). The foreign national should be engaged in the following:
- A non-profit religious organization in the United States;
- A religious organization authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
- A non-profit religious organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.
The visa program is essentially intended for people who have dedicated their lives to religious practices and functions, as distinguished from secular members of the religion. The foreign national must be able to show they have a bona-fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing the petition. To begin the process for an R-1 nonimmigrant visa, a U.S. employer must file Form I-129 on behalf of the foreign national seeking to enter the United States as a minister or religious worker. Once the I-129 petition is approved, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad handling the case will then determine if the applicant is eligible for the R-1 visa. As with all travelers who appear at ports of entry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) determines if the beneficiary can be admitted to the United States. When filing Form I-129 the petitioner must include evidence of eligibility for the classification being sought. Care should be taken by both the organization and religious worker to make sure that the requirements for the R-1 visa are met.