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.
Both the petitioning organization and the religious worker must satisfy certain requirements, which are as follows:
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 organization is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax exemption, provide a group ruling
If IRS documents such as Form W-2 or certified tax returns are available, they must be provided; and
If IRS documents are not available, you must explain why and provide comparable, verifiable documentation
If the religious worker will be self-supporting
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 in which:
Compensated or uncompensated foreign workers previously held R-1 status;
Missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated;
The organization provides formal training for missionaries; and
Participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination.
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
Copies of the religious worker’s bank records or budgets documenting the sources of self-support. This may include, but is not limited to, personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination’s churches, or other verifiable evidence
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:
Proof of previous R-1 employment (for extension of stay as an R-1)
If the religious worker received salaried compensation, provide IRS documents that show he or she received a salary. This may include, but is not limited to, Form W-2 or certified copies of filed income tax returns reflecting such work and compensation for the previous R-1 employment
If the religious worker received non-salaried compensation:
If IRS documents are not available, explain why and provide comparable, verifiable evidence of all financial support (including stipends, room and board, or other support) with a description of the location where the religious worker lived, a lease to establish where he or she lived, or other evidence
If the religious worker received no salary but supported him or herself 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
A person seeking R-1 visa status may seek an initial period of stay for up to 30 months. Extensions of stay may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The religious worker’s total period of stay in the U.S. in R-1 classification cannot exceed 5 years (60 months).
Family of R-1 Visa Holders
An R-1 religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children (under the age of 21) may be eligible for R-2 classification. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to accept employment based on this visa classification.