R1/R2 Religious Visa

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 (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination 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 before the filing of the petition.

Proof of tax-exempt status. If the religious organization has its own individual IRS 501(c)(3) letter, provide a currently valid determination letter from the IRS showing that the organization is tax-exempt. If the religious organization is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax exemption, provide a group ruling. If the organization is affiliated with the religious denomination, provide:

  1. A currently valid determination letter from the IRS showing that the organization is tax exempt;
  2. Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization;
  3. Organizational literature; and
  4. A religious denomination certification.

The organization needs to provide proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation. If the religious worker will be self-supporting the petition must include documents that show the religious worker will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination; evidence showing that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work; evidence showing that the organization’s religious denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad; evidence of the religious worker’s acceptance into the missionary program; evidence of the duties and responsibilities associated with this traditionally uncompensated missionary work. Petition may include copies of the religious worker’s bank records or budgets documenting the sources of self-support.

Religious Denomination. Religious worker must provide evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of the petition.

If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide a copy of the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents; documents showing acceptance of the religious worker’s qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that he completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination. If the denomination does not require a prescribed theological education, provide the 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; and evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination.

Extension of stay as an R-1. If the religious worker received salaried compensation, provide IRS documents that show he received a salary. If the religious worker received non-salaried compensation if IRS documents are available, provide IRS documentation of the non-salaried compensation; or if IRS documents are not available, explain why and provide comparable, verifiable evidence of all financial support with a description of the location where the religious worker lived, a lease to establish where he lived, or other evidence. If the religious worker received no salary but supported himself and any dependents, provide verifiable documents to show how support was maintained. This may include, but is not limited to, audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other evidence.

Period of Stay. USCIS may grant R-1 status for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months. Subsequent extensions may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The religious worker’s total period of stay in the United States in R-1 classification cannot exceed 5 years (60 months). USCIS counts only time spent physically in the United States in valid R-1 status toward the maximum period of stay.

R-2 Spouse and Unmarried Children

Spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of the religious worker may be eligible for R-2 classification. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to accept employment.