What are the requirements for Religious Worker Visas? Immigrants who come to the U.S. on a temporary basis to perform religious work are eligible for religious worker visas. R-1 visas are available to those who perform religious work at least 20 hours per week. People seeking these visas must be dedicated to religious practices and employed by a qualifying religious group in the United States. Religious occupations must include duties that are part of traditional religious functions. Religious study or education alone does not qualify you for an R-1 visa.

Requirements for R-1 Visas

Only those who meet the requirements for an R-1 visa are eligible to be considered. The petitioner must submit an I-129 form along with proper documentation to prove that the criteria for a religious worker visa are met. Some of the important requirements include:

  • Determination Letter
  • Proof of Compensation
  • IRS Documentation
  • Verifiable Evidence

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, may conduct an inspection as part of the visa determination process. When the religious worker is a minister, he or she must provide a certificate of ordination or other, similar evidence. Additionally, the financial records may be necessary in cases where the religious worker does not receive standard compensation.

Length of Stay

An initial R-1 visa may be granted for a period of admission not to exceed 30 months. At the end of this period, the immigrant may seek an extension period. The immigrant cannot spend more than 5 years in the U.S., but it is important to note that only the time spent in the U.S. counts towards the total time.  There are some complex rules and regulations that govern the computation of the R-1 visa length of stay. It is helpful to get help from a qualified immigration attorney to determine the R-1 visa.

Additional Information

Those who qualify for the religious worker visa must have the intent to return to their homeland at a later date. The R-1 visa is for temporary immigrant status only. Immediate family members may qualify for an R-2 visa. R-2 visa holders are not allowed to have working privileges. Those who are granted R-1 visas must provide immediate notification if their religious employment is terminated or if the location of their congregation changes. In some situations, religious workers may qualify for a B-1 visa (business visitor visa) if they do not meet the criteria for an R-1 visa. Because the immigration and visa process is rather complicated, it is advisable to speak with an immigration lawyer before you submit a visa application.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Religious Worker Visas, or other Immigration Law matters, please feel free to contact Phil D. Ortega at  480.461.5330, log on to udallshumway.com,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.