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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 to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.


To qualify, 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 preceding the filing of the petition.

Every petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by a prospective or existing U.S. employer through the filing of an I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. An R-1 visa cannot and will not be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval of Form I-129 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If the foreign national is visa-exempt, he or she must present an original I-129 approval notice at a port of entry. If the foreign national is already in the United States under a different nonimmigrant visa category and would like to change status from his or her current category to an R-1, the foreign national's employer must file an I-129 with USCIS in order to change status to an R-1.

In addition to filing an I-129 with USCIS, the employer must submit the following supporting documentation with the I-129:

  • PROOF OF TAX-EXEMPT STATUS; and
  • PROOF OF SALARIED OR NON-SALARIED COMPENSATION;


  • EVIDENCE THAT S/HE HAS BEEN A MEMBER OF A RELIGIOUS DENOMINATION FOR AT LEAST 2 YEARS IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE FILING OF THE I-129;
  • PROOF OF PREVIOUS R-1 EMPLOYMENT


  • COPY OF ORDINATION OR SIMILAR DOCUMENTS;
  • DOCUMENTS REFLECTING ACCEPTANCE OF THE RELIGIOUS WORKER'S QUALIFICATION AS A MINISTER IN THE RELIGIOUS DENOMINATION;
  • EVIDENCE THAT THE FOREIGN NATIONAL HAS COMPLETED ANY COURSE OF PRESCRIBED THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION AT AN ACCREDITED THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTION NORMALLY REQUIRED OR RECOGNIZED BY THE RELIGIOUS DENOMINATION


  • 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; &
  • EVIDENCE OF THE RELIGIOUS WORKER'S COMPLETION OF THE DENOMINATION'S REQUIREMENTS FOR ORDINATION.


An R-1 status may be granted for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months. An extension of R-1 status may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The total stay in the United States in R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months (5 years).


R-1 worker's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. While an R-1 spouse and unmarried children may live in the United States with their R-1, spouse and parent, respectively, R-2 derivatives may not accept employment while in the United States in the R-2 status.


The added benefit of R-1 status is that after two years of employment with a qualifying religious denomination, the foreign national has the option of filing for permanent resident status a/k/a green card. The process begins with the religious organization filing yet another petition for the benefit of the religious worker with USCIS. In addition to filing the evidence listed above with the petition, the foreign national must also submit documentation proving qualifying prior experience during the two years immediately preceding the filing of the petition. Examples include but are not limited to W-2 forms, U.S. Individual Tax Returns and paystubs.

Gabriela particularly enjoys these types of cases because the employment of the foreign national benefits so many people in the United States. The work performed by the foreign nationals touches the lives of everyone in their community, legal and illegal, United States citizens and non-citizens alike. The R-1 visa holders Gabriela has had the pleasure of meeting throughout the years as a result of her work with these types of cases are extraordinary human beings. Their devotion and dedication to their faith, their parishioners and their community is admirable and exemplary. Gabriela has been blessed to have had the opportunity to work on these types of cases.

If would like additional information on how to file for R-1 status or permanent resident status based on your employment with a religious organization contact Gabriela.