The R-1 Visa enables religious workers to temporarily enter the U.S. A religious vocation is defined as a calling to religious life, demonstrated by a lifelong commitment such as taking vows. Nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters are examples of religious workers.
This classification includes liturgical workers, religious instructors or cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, and religious broadcasters. However, this classification does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fundraisers, or solicitors of donations.
The R-1 applicant must demonstrate that he or she has belonged to a nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. for at least the two years. The U.S. petitioning organization must be a tax-exempt nonprofit religious organization that is able to afford to pay at least a living wage to the religious worker. Until recently, Religious Workers who lived outside the U.S. could apply for the R-1 visa at their consulate. This is no longer the case and a petition must first be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Religious workers who are already in the U.S. may ask their employer to petition the USCIS for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment.
R-1 visa holders may remain in the U.S. for up to three years – formerly 5 years.
Spouses and/or unmarried children under 21 years of age may accompany the religious worker to the U.S. under R-2 status. R-2 visa holders are not authorized to work while in the U.S., but may attend school.
The petitioning organization may also be asked to provide the following:
- Written proof that the applicant has been employed by the organization for two years.
- A statement outlining the potential position (including “salary, benefits, and other compensation”) and the applicant’s qualifications for the work to be performed (USCIS).
- The name and address of the organization where the religious worker will be employed.
- Proof of “the organization’s affiliation with the denomination” in question (USCIS).