What is an R-1 Visa?
The U.S. Immigration Code provides a pathway for foreign clergy members and ministers to serve their various religious faiths in the United States through the R-1 Visa. The R-1 visa is intended to benefit vocational ministers of all established faiths with a presence in the United States including, but not limited to, rabbis, priests, imams, pastors, and monks. It is important to note that this visa is only intended for ministers, not to staff that may be employed by a religious institution in a supportive role (for example, accountants, janitors, etc.)
The R-1 visa does not allow the visa holder to hold other employment and the visa holder may only pursue education or training in the United States if it is incidental to their religious work. The R-1 visa allows ministers to work in the United States for their respective denomination for a period of 30 months, which can be extended to 60 months. R-1 visa holders are also generally able to apply for lawful permanent residency and obtain derivative visas, which are known as R-2 visas, for their qualifying dependents so that their spouses and children can accompany them to the United States.
What are the requirements for an R-1 Visa?
To be eligible, an R-1 visa applicant must be sponsored by a religious denomination and meet the following criteria:
- Be member of a religious denomination that has an active nonprofit, tax-exempt religious organization in the US;
- Be affiliated with the religious denomination for a minimum of two years immediately leading up the time of application;
- Be employed with the religious denomination for an average of at least 20 hours a week;
- Be seeking to enter the United States solely to serve as a vocational minister at the request of, and for, the applicant’s denomination.
If you are a minister or a religious denomination seeking to sponsor a foreign minister and are interested in pursuing an R-1 Visa, please reach out. Martinez Immigration can help you through the application process and understand all of your options.