R-1 Visas

An R-1 visa allows a foreign national to be temporarily employed in the United States on a full-time or part-time (at least 20 hours a week) basis, in a religious occupation. Examples of religious occupations eligible for R-1 visas include (but are not limited to): ministers, missionaries, religious broadcasters, workers in religious hospitals, religious instructors and religious counselors.

An R-1 visa holder may be granted an initial period of admission of 30 months. R-1 visa holders may be granted an additional status extension of up to 30 months. At the end of five years (60 months), an R-1 visa holder must leave the country for at least a year before applying for a new R-1 visa.


To qualify for an R-1 visa, an applicant must:

  • Be a member of a religious denomination which is either: (1) a non-profit religious organization in the United States; (2) a religious group that is using another organization’s tax exempt status; or (3) a religious organization affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States;
  • Have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years immediately prior to the filing of the R-1 petition; and
  • Be entering the United States to work at least 20 hours per week in a religious occupation for the religious denomination or an affiliated organization.

What Constitutes a Religious Occupation?

A job qualifies as a religious occupation if:

  • The job duties are religious in nature;
  • The occupation is considered a religious occupation within the particular religion; and
  • The job duties relate to carrying out the beliefs and customs of the particular religion.

A job may include limited administrative duties that are incidental to religious functions. However, a job that is primarily administrative in nature, such as a secretary, does not qualify as a religious occupation. Similarly, a job that is a support position, such as a janitor, does not qualify as a religious occupation.

What Constitutes a Religious Denomination?

A religious denomination is defined as a group who fall under a common type of ecclesiastical government. 8 C.F.R. 214.2(r)(3). A group may demonstrate that they qualify as a religious denomination if they can show one or more of the following:

  • A common creed or statement of faith;
  • A common form of worship;
  • A common formal code of doctrine and discipline;
  • Common established places of worship or congregations; or
  • Comparable indicia of a bona fide religious denomination.

R-2 Visas

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of R-1 visa holders are eligible to enter the United States on R-2 visas. R-2 visa holders are not eligible to work while in the United States.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Lawyer Today

If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing an R-1 visa, Hartzman Law Firm is here to help. If you would like to learn more about how Hartzman Law Firm can help you file for an R-1 visa, please call us at (412) 495-9849 or fill out a contact form online. We offer free consultations in person, by phone, and by secure video conferencing. Weekend consultations are also available by request.

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