Religious worker visa (type R)

People who want to enter the United States to do religious work require the religious worker visa of type R. This visa for temporary religious workers is for the non-immigrant category, as established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

To apply, the foreign citizen must be a proven religious worker or belong to a non-profit U.S. religious organization. In other words, belong to a church recognized worldwide and authorized to preach within the country.

Foreign religious workers are considered to be persons duly authorized by a tax-free ecclesiastical institution. They can be priests or ministers, monks, imams, rabbis and others. who conduct religious ceremonies or undertake vocational studies of their profession.

The visas that the U.S. immigration system grants to these people are category R1. While immediate family members (spouses and children) are granted the R-2 visa.


Los Angeles immigration lawyers at Lluis Law are specialists in this type of visas for the USA. For more than 40 years, we have helped hundreds of immigrants settle in the United States. or to resolve immigration issues.

What is an R-type religious visa?

It is a visa category available in the United States for all religious workers. Although it is a non-immigrant visa, it offers the possibility of emigrating to the U.S. during the period of legal stay.

Therefore, the R-type visa is a program created especially to authorize the entry into the United States of religious workers. This visa is designed for people who dedicate their lives to worship and religious practices. Not for secular or faithful members of a certain religion.

Who is valid to obtain an R-1 visa?

The R1 visa is granted to the main applicants of this type of visa for the United States. Religious workers of all legitimate religions and cults have the right to apply for an R-1 visa.

This visa authorizes its holders to enter, work legally and reside in the United States for more than two years. However, you can request a visa extension before the end of this period.

Accompanying family members of the religious worker (R-2 visa) may also live in the United States. Although the visa authorizes family members to study at an American academic institution, they are not allowed to work.

How do I obtain a religious work visa?

To opt for an R-1 visa, certain eligibility criteria must be met, such as the following mentioned below:

  • Be authorized by an internationally recognized religious entity to offer a religious cult.
  • Carry out tasks similar to those of other members or representatives of that church.
  • If you are a part-time worker, you must work at least 20 hours per week on average.
  • Have at least two years of church / worship membership for which you work, prior to applying for the visa.
  • Being an authority (priest, minister, pastor) within the religious organization to which you belong.
  • Have physically resided and been outside the United States during the year immediately preceding the application.
  • Have the intention to leave the United States once the visa expires or before.

Petition for religious worker

For this type of American visa, the US employer is also required to file a petition on your behalf. The petition must be filed with the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), through Form I-129.

Petitions for religious workers must be filed in advance. It can be at least three months before starting work in the proposed job.

The religious worker’s request must have been approved before he or she applies for the R-1 visa at the Embassy. After the petition is approved, the employer receives a Notice of Action, Form I-797.

The notification must also be presented on the day of the interview with the consular officer, who will verify your approval. The approved I-129 petition does not guarantee the beneficiary automatic approval of the R-1 visa.

Religious worker visa requirements

If you apply for a Type R religious worker visa, you must submit the following:

  • Form (DS-160), Electronic Application for Nonimmigrant Visa.
  • Valid passport to travel to the United States. For R-2 derived visas, other applicants must submit a separate application.
  • Recent photo size 5cm x 5xm or (2 “x 2”) as indicated by the system.
  • Receipt of payment of US $ 190 for the application processing fee.
R type visa for temporary religious workers

Additional documents to accompany the request

To obtain religious worker status, the following documents must be attached to the I-360 petition:

  • Letter from an authorized representative of the church or religious organization stating that the applicant qualifies for the job.
  • Letter from the church certifying that the applicant is an active member of the congregation. The letter must explain in detail the work done by the applicant in the two years prior to the visa application.
  • Evidence that the religious organization is a non-profit institution. Must be exempt from tax, according to the 1986 Internal Revenue Code, Section 501 (c) (3) d.

Relatives of the holder of an R-1 visa must apply for the R-2 visa for spouse and children under 21 years of age. They can complete the process together with the main applicant or later if they want to join them during their stay in the USA.

For R-2 dependency visas there is no set annual limit. If you need to process an R1 / R-2 visa or carry out a consular processing , do not hesitate to request our services.

Schedule the appointment at the embassy

After gathering and completing the documents required for the R-1 visa process, the interview should be scheduled. All applicants for this visa (except those under 14 years of age) are required to attend the visa interview.

To do this, an appointment must be scheduled at the embassy with the consular officer. This procedure is done through the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate.

After completing the appointment schedule with the consular officer, the applicant receives a confirmation letter. There you specify the day and time that you must be present for the appointment. This document must also be brought on the day of the interview.

Benefits of the R-1 visa for the United States

Some of the most important benefits of a religious worker visa in the United States include:

  • Conduct studies in the United States.
  • Travel within the United States or outside the country.
  • Work and receive a salary or emolument for your services.
  • Immediate relatives (spouse and children under 21 years old) may enter the country.

Another of the most important benefits of the R1 visa is that it allows its holders to opt for permanent residence. In other words, obtaining the Green Card and subsequently achieving American citizenship by naturalization.

How long does it take to get a Type R religious worker visa?

Rapid processing of an R-1 visa could take no more than two weeks, for special government cases. If the applicant does not have the benefit of premium processing, the visa could take 2-3 months to get processed.

Although the entire process and approval of this visa could normally take between 8 and 9 months. Firstly USCIS must have approved the petition filed by the employer in the United States (church or congregation).

How much does a religious visa cost in 2020?

The processing fee for the R-1 visa is US $ 190. This fee is paid before making the visa application. Depending on the country from which it is requested, this rate may vary. This fee is called the visa issuance fee.

After making the payment, the applicant must save the proof receipt issued by the system. This receipt must be attached to the application form, the petition and the other required documents.

Another cost associated with applying for an R1 visa is the USCIS Form I-129 fee. This payment will surely be made by the employer in the USA. However, the principal applicant may have to pay the fees for the family’s R-2 visa.

What is the validity time of an R-1 visa?

The R-1 visa initially has a validity period of 30 months. When the permit to stay in the USA is close to expiring, the holder can request an extension for this period of time.

The extension of the religious visa authorizes the worker to remain another 30 months more legally in the country. It should be noted that after completing 60 months of permanence, USCIS does not grant any more extensions.

After that time, the religious worker can return to their country of origin or apply for a green card.


If you or a family member need help to process this religious worker visa or any immigration matter, contact us. We are experts in all kinds of visas and immigration reliefs. We also work with immigration bail bondsPERM labor certification, and immigration appeals, among other legal resources.