What is an R1 Visa?
The R1 Visa is a religious-based visa available to foreign members of nonprofit vocational associations. To be eligible, applicants must provide evidence of their professional roles and planned activities in the US. With an R1 visa, you can come to the United States as a religious worker or minister.
Examples of people that can apply for an R1 Visa include religious instructors, religious counsellors, liturgical workers, catechists, cantors, religious translators, religious broadcasters, workers in religious healthcare facilities & hospitals.
Certain workers in religious organizations cannot apply for an R1 visa. Examples are those working as clerks, fundraisers, maintenance workers, and janitors.
R1 Visa Eligibility
To be eligible for an R1 visa, you must meet the following USCIS requirements:
- You must be a religious minister coming to work in a religious occupation or vocation.
- You must have a job offer from a nonprofit religious organization in the United States; or a job offer from a nonprofit organization affiliated with a religious organization.
- You must be a member of the religious denomination for at least two years before your application.
- Your job position allows you to work at least part-time with no less than 20 hours per week.
Acceptable Religious Denominations
The US government only recognizes religious denominations with a codified discipline, doctrine, religious rituals, and ceremonies.
Members must share an ecclesiastical government, a uniform of worship, and a recognized creed. Tax-exempt international and domestic interdenominational religious groups may also qualify as religious denominations.
Who is a Minister of Religion?
To be regarded as a minister of religion, you must have received written authorization by his religious denomination to perform a religious occupation.
A religious occupation is any activity that involves a traditional religious role. Licenses, certificates, formal letters, and other qualifications are acceptable written authorizations.
People who work in religious hospitals or liturgical settings are qualified. In some cases, deacons. Salvation Army leaders and Christian Science practitioners may also qualify as ministers.
R1 Visa Required Documents
For your R1 visa application, you need the following documents:
- Approved Form I-129
- Form DS-160 confirmation page
- International valid passport for at least 6 months beyond your period of stay
- Fee payment receipts
- Passport photographs
You’ll have to provide documents to prove your status as a religious worker or minister. The document requirements sometimes vary from one applicant to another and may depend on the circumstances of one’s application.
The embassy will specifically state the documents you have to bring to your application before your interview.
R1 Visa Application Process
To start your application, your prospective or existing US employer has to file Form I-129 on your behalf. The employer must include evidence of eligibility for the classification being applied for. Your sponsor will file Form I-129, provide all necessary documents and pay the application fee.
The USCIS will review the application and either approve or deny the petition. The review process may involve a site visit to the sponsor’s headquarters to verify its status as a religious organization.
In addition, your sponsor may also attend an interview. If the petition is approved, you can then submit Form DS-160.
Form DS-160 is a nonimmigrant online visa application form that you must complete to seek a visa to travel to the US after successfully processing Form I-129. You can access the form online. You will have to complete all necessary sections of the form and upload the required documents. You must also pay the application fee and submit the form online after completing it.
Print out the form confirmation page and also your payment receipt. Finally, you must schedule an interview appointment with the embassy.
If you’re in the US already but on a different visa, you shouldn’t submit DS-160. Instead, you have to file for a change of status with Form I-539.
At your interview, you’ll have to answer questions about your role in your religious denomination and your purpose of visiting the United States. You must schedule your interview as soon as possible to prevent long wait times.
In some cases, however, the embassy may require further processing of your application which may increase the wait time. You’ll likely have to provide additional documents.
R1 Visa Application Fees
For your R1 visa application, you’ll have to pay the following fees:
- Form DS-160 filing fee: $190
- Biometrics fee (if applicable): $85
If biometrics are applicable, you have to pay and submit your fingerprints when you go for your interview. Other fees you might pay include a visa issuance fee, medical & vaccination fees.
Your employer will pay the $460 filing fee for Form I-129. If you’re in the United States and you’re filing Form I-539, you have to pay a $370 filing fee.
R1 Visa Processing Time
The R1 Visa takes some time to process. The USCIS will take about 6 months to process your sponsor’s Form I-129 petition. Notably, this is because they may have to visit their headquarters for inspection.
However, the processing time would be shorter if the USCIS had previously visited the headquarters and granted them approval.
To speed up the petition for nonimmigrant workers, your sponsor may apply for premium processing if they qualify. For that, they have to file Form I-1907 along with I-129 or as a standalone application. With premium processing, the embassy will process the petition in no more than 15 days. The filing fee for Form I-1907 for an R-1 nonimmigrant visa is $1,500.
Premium processing service fee is usually paid by visa petitioners (your sponsor). If the processing isn’t complete within 15 days, they’ll get a refund. For your nonimmigrant application, the processing time is about 3 to 5 weeks.
It depends on the workload of the embassy where you apply. You can only start processing DS-160 after Form I-129 is approved.
R1 Visa Validity
The validity of an R1 visa is 3 years. You can extend the Visa for an additional two years, making a total of 5 years. You can extend your R1 Visa after 3 years by filing Form 1-129.
After 5 years, you must exit the United States. You can only apply for a new R1 visa after residing outside the US for at least a year.
If your contract with the religious organization expires before your Visa expires, you have 60 days to leave the US or until your visa expiry date – whichever comes first.
R1 Visa Dependents
Unmarried children under the age of 21 and your legally married spouse qualify as dependents. You can bring them with you to the United States if they apply for R2 visas.
Your dependents can apply for the R2 Visa at the same time you apply or after you get your R1 Visa. They can only travel with you or travel after you – they can’t go before you.
For their application, you’ll have to submit valid birth certificates for the children and marriage certificates for spouses. Dependent visas are valid for as long as your R1 is valid.
They get a visa extension when you get yours, and they have to leave when you do. With an R2 visa, they cannot work in the US, but they can study part-time or full-time.
How can IAS help me?
When applying for an R1 Visa, our Immigration Lawyers who operate our Citizenship and Immigration Services can help you:
- Review and strengthen your supporting portfolio of evidence
- Get translations of documentation if necessary.
- Liaise with your US based employer
- Help you fill out documentation, such as the Form I-129 to the highest standard possible.
Call us today if you would like to access these services at +1 844 290 6312, or use the contact form above.
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You can participate in a study with an R1 visa if it is related to or incidental to your job. However, studying cannot be the sole basis for your visit.
R2 Visa is a nonimmigrant dependent visa, so holders cannot get social security numbers.
Yes, you can travel in and out of the United States freely with your R1 Visa. Some R1 visa holders who work part-time reside outside the US and visit the US only when they have work to do