The R-1 visa is a temporary non immigrant visa for religious workers to enter the United States to engage in religious work/vocation. To qualify for an R-1 visa, the individual must have been a member of the sponsoring organization’s religious denomination for the two years immediately before the petition is filed.

R-1 status only allows you to work for the sponsoring organization; outside employment is not permitted. However, it is possible to have two or more organizations of the same denomination sponsor the religious worker for part-time work with each organization.

Certain religious workers are eligible to be sponsored for permanent residence. To obtain permanent residency, the applicant must have actually worked for two years in the capacity that he or she plans to work in the United States. Because of this difference, it is common for religious workers to initially enter the United States on an R-1 visa and then apply for permanent residence two years later.

Please contact our office if you would like our office to assess whether you may qualify for permanent residence (“greencard”) under this category.

How to Apply

If the religious worker is outside of the United States, he or she does not need to file a petition ahead of time. He or she will simply take the supporting documents to a US consulate to apply for the visa. If the religious worker is already in the United States on a different nonimmigrant visa, the sponsoring organization files a petition to change his or her status to R-1 religious worker and extend his or her stay.

Some R-1 applications may be eligible for expedited processing by submitting to the USCIS an additional $1000 fee for premium processing. An application submitted under premium processing will be reviewed within 15 days.

For assistance in applying for the R-1 visa please contact our office.


The maximum stay for an R-1 visa holder is 5 years. The R-1 visa is granted initially for a maximum of 30 months and can be extended for the remaining 30 months totaling 5 years. If the employment is intermittent or seasonal, less than 6 months a year, the five year cap does not apply. After the five year period, the R-1 visa holder must depart the United States and is eligible for another five year period if he or she is physically outside the United States for at least one year.


Dependents of R-1 visa holders hold R-2 visas. R-2 visa holders are not granted work authorization.

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