Religious Workers (R-1)

The R-1 visa category is reserved for certain religious workers coming to the United States to engage in traditional religious occupations.


R-1 visas are given to individuals who are:

  1. Ministers;
  2. Persons working in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation; or
  3. Persons working for a religious occupation that relates to a traditional religious function.

The individual must have been a member of a religious denomination having a non-profit religious organization in the United States for a minimum of two years immediately preceding the date of application. The qualifying two years of religious experience need not be full-time or involve one type of religious work or function. However, it cannot be volunteer work.

The U.S. petitioning organization must have tax exempt status as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Further, the petitioning organization must demonstrate that it can and will provide for all of the R-1 beneficiary’s financial and physical needs.

Time Limits

The initial validity of an R-1 visa is 30 months. Only one extension of status may be filed seeking to extend the R-1 status for an additional 30 months. The total time allowed in R-1 status is five years. After five years in R-1 status, the person must depart the United State and remain outside the United States for one year to be eligible for another period of R-1 status.


The spouse and all unmarried children under age of 21-years old may receive R-2 visas. These family members may attend school in the United States. However, an R-2 visa visa holder may not work.