How I Can Be Eligible for an R-1 Nonimmigrant Religious Workers Visa?

R-1 visas are available to those who are part of a bona fide nonprofit religious organization, but are there other eligibility requirements? What steps should you take to get an R-1 visa? Keep reading to find out.

Understanding R-1 Visas

R-1 visas are a part of a specific classification of nonimmigrant visa that enables members of an approved nonprofit religious organization to work as a minister in the United States. Qualifying migrants must be a part of “bona fide” or good faith religious organization which can be a church, temple, synagogue, etc. Once the visa is approved, the migrant can only work as a minister, in a religious vocation, or otherwise religious occupation.

R visas are granted for 30 months initially, but workers can request an extension up to five years. Time spent outside of the United States does not count toward the five-year extension period.

Temporary Visas

Ministers and members of religious denominations are looking for temporary status for brief periods could be eligible for a B-1 visa for visitors. This visa allows the visa holder to take care of business while in the United States but does not permit the visitor to work permanently nor does it provide a clear pathway for citizenship.


As with most visas, applicants must meet all eligibility requirements to get a visa. The qualifications for R-1 visa applicants are as follows:

  • The migrant must be employed by a nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. or a nonprofit affiliated with a religious organization in the U.S.
  • The migrant must have been a member of a religious denomination in the United States for at least two years before submitting a petition
  • The migrant must work in the U.S. in a part-time or full-time capacity
  • The migrant must be a minister or working within a religious organization.
  • The migrant must work for the employer who files the petition
  • The migrant cannot work in any other position or industry outside of religious organizations

Family Members

Spouses and unmarried children of an authorized R-1 visa holder may be eligible for an R-2 status. This is an immigration status extended to family members, but it does not authorize work. Individuals with an R-2 classification must pursue a work visa or study visa on their own.


To file a petition for a R-1 Visa, Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers, migrants must first file an I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. This application is a mandatory prerequisite for any work visa migrants may apply for. It is crucial that applicants review the Form I-129 instructions to ensure that they are following each step carefully. Simple errors can be detrimental to a migrant’s case, so it is crucial to get it right the first time.

After filing Form, I-129 and paying the filing fee, the migrant must provide all necessary documentation and evidence as indicated by the processor. If additional documentation is required, the migrant must turn it over in a timely manner.


After the migrant submits their petition, they will receive a receipt to denote that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has received the documents. The migrant may also receive a notice to appear for an interview. Interviews are used to ascertain whether an applicant is genuine in their efforts to migrate to the United States. The USCIS will also send a notice of their decision.

Changes in Employment

If the migrant must relocate within the same religious organization, the employer must file a petition on the individual’s behalf. Additionally, if the individual is terminated from their position, they must notify the USCIS within 14 days of termination notice. However, in cases where the worker changes employers they must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and provide attestation and supporting evidence.

Entrust Your Case to Our Qualified Attorneys

If you are a migrant seeking an R-1 visa, Maghzi Law Firm can help. Our attorneys have helped countless clients pursue visas, citizenship, asylum, and more. Our experienced and compassionate attorneys offer a variety of legal services to ensure that our clients get the legal help they need at any point in the visa application process.

Contact our firm today for more information.